May 23, 2023

One Simple Way to Always Act (How to introduce change)

Context about introducing change from an evolutionary perspective. Actionable steps to take NOW.

One Simple Way to Always Act (How to introduce change)

What do you think makes a great personal trainer?
Do you think it's the one who leaves their first-time gym goer unable to walk for a week?

When I first heard this question, my answer was "Yes, that's a good trainer".  
I thought: "If I were a client, I'd like the trainer who makes me the most sore."
I was wrong.

That is not the best trainer (for the majority of people). The correct approach is to have the client do a single exercise, or even a single measly set.

Wanna know why?

Because that client will return tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.

If somebody feels like what they are doing is too hard, they will quit.

The two people in these hypothetical gym-going situations are the tortoise and the hare from the classic story.

Except there is one difference: This race does not have a finish line.

It's the participant who makes it further that wins. The only time constraint is your lifespan.

💡
"Most people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a lifetime." -- Bill Gates

The person who sticks to the gym longer is the winner. Over a long enough time horizon, they have to win.


Comfort vs Discomfort (order vs chaos)

You've likely experienced somebody having a tough time with change. You've likely had the experience yourself.

Any major change in life can be daunting, and it is for good reason.
We humans (and animals in general) crave comfort.
When things change, we are, by definition, no longer comfortable with our situation.

Think about a bear in the wild. She is doing everything in her power to create comfort for her children (and get away from the chaos).

That is their purpose. Their purpose is obvious. That was the purpose for humans hundreds of years ago as well (like any other animal).

Our ancestors succeeded at this goal like no other species. They built a world that generates comfort for generations to come.

Now we are born into this comfort.

No wonder why it is so hard for us to build new habits and find purpose.

We have to choose to step out of our comfort into the chaos to create and find our purpose.

By doing so, we are trying to introduce change into our lives and that creates discomfort; things that we are wired to avoid.


The Only Two Paths.

Now that we understand why it is so difficult, we can use this information to overcome the obstacles.

There are two ways in which a human can introduce change to their lives.

1. Do 1% more every day.

This is what I was explaining above with the first time gym goer.

When implementing behavioral change, you need to do what is manageable without quitting.

The idea is to introduce as much change as possible without being overtaken by our evolutionary mechanism to revert to comfort.

Don't be afraid to start small.

In fact, do start small.

Be the turtle, practice patience, and don't underestimate what you can do in 6 months or 3 years.

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Side Note: In an ideal world, we don't do 1% exactly. We do the exact largest increase each day that we can handle where we don't quit. If you can do 5% more each day without quitting but 6% would make you quit, then you have found the ideal rate of change. The important part is to not quit. Hopefully at this point you understand why rate of change is so important.

A quick scenario that may give some extra perspective and depth to this rate of change idea:

We've all gotten into a cold pool before right?

What is the best way to get into the pool? Some people take it slow, but most jump in all at once.

Why?

To get the pain and discomfort over with ASAP.

There are a few things to unpack here.

First, you may be thinking that this is contradictory to the 1% advice given above, and to some extent it is.

By jumping in the pool, we introduce the greatest rate of change in our body temperature possible. This creates the highest level of discomfort in that moment.

Here's the key difference: The reason why we do this is because we know the grass is greener on the other side, so we get it over with.

The first time you got into a body of cold water, did you dive straight in?

No chance.

Because you didn't have experience with this situation before, so you had to take it slow to find out.

The same is true for new habits. Since the behavior is new to you, you must take it slow.

But once you have proven that the grass is greener on the other side, the next new habit will be easier to create.

We develop the muscle of developing new habits, and then we can increase the rate of change over time (for the next new habit).

2. Activation Energy

What is the one thing that lots of success stories have in common?

The person came from nothing.

Or the person had the cards stacked against them.

This is not a coincidence — I call this activation energy.

When a bear has to create comfort for their children, they will.
When a person has to make his business succeed otherwise his family will be homeless, he will.

The more desperate a person is, the higher probability of success.

Activation Energy ties in nicely with the 1% rule.

We can use this as a tool to increase our rate of change threshold. By adding some activation energy (putting our backs against the wall), we can increase our rate of change threshold.

An example of this is taking some leap of faith.

Quitting your job to attack your business full time.

Telling a loved one that you promise you will achieve a certain goal by the end of the month.

Things like this can create enough activation energy to get you going faster.

Granted, these things are tough to put into practice.

Usually, activation energy is forced onto people or animals by nature or circumstance.

It is the organic form of discomfort.

It is difficult enough to ask people to introduce any level of change into their lives. Asking them to take a leap of faith and give up tons of comfort is a tough ask.

But if you choose to be uncomfortable in the short term, you will reap the benefits.

You will create new comfort much greater than that which you did not earn (were born into etc.).

Activation Energy Hack (click me to open online)

If you put yourself in a group of people who are doing better than you, your rate of change threshold will skyrocket. This is the single most effective way to change faster. We have evolutionary mechanisms to assimilate and compete. Surround yourself around people who you will benefit from assimilating and competing with.

Okay, Now What?

Time to take action

With what we have learned in mind, here are actionable steps that you can take now.

1. Identify the goal (click me to open online)

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • Are you trying to start going to the gym?
  • Start reading?
  • Study more?

2. The Next 5 Minutes

  • Do what you can to work towards the goal right now as you are reading this.
  • Either start now at a micro level for 5 minutes, or plan the thing for tomorrow.
  • If you want to go to the gym, find the gym that you're gonna go to on google.
  • Buy a day pass.
  • Schedule a time for tomorrow that you are going to go.
  • Do this now

3. Follow Through

  • When the next day comes, do the thing that you scheduled.
  • Drive to the gym, do a set, and leave.
  • You'll have motivation on the first few days and will want to do more. Don't do more. Trust what we learned about rate of change above. You will quit if you do too much. Motivation runs out, and you don't have discipline to hold you up yet.

4. Create a Plan

  • With rate of change in mind, make a humble plan for what you are going to do each day.
  • Are you going to do one more set?
  • Study for 5 more minutes?
  • Plan out what you will do and how much you will increase.
  • Remember to focus on a low rate of change. Be the tortoise. I can not stress this enough.

5. Iterate & Adjust

  • Your first plan should not be your last.
  • When you make your first plan, you are the least informed that you will ever be.
  • The focus on the first plan was conservative. You will likely learn that you can increase later, and adjust the plan.
  • You can only get to this point if you haven't quit before hand.
  • I don't recommend changing your plan very soon. If the initial plan was to stick to adding one more set a day, stick to it until you reach a full workout. Be patient, and figure out what works for you once the habit is in place.
  • Aim for 2 months of sticking to your plan before adjusting.

Follow these steps, and take yourself seriously. Respect yourself, and don't quit on him/her.

If you can't respect yourself, nobody else can respect you.

Go slow, and don't quit.

Remember, the beginning is the hardest part.

You will come across sticking points. Difficult days where you are unsure of yourself.

If the plan is easy enough, you should be able to overcome these doubtful feelings.

I would like to share something that helps me a lot in the sticking situations. It's a question that I ask myself.

What kind of man are you?

For some reason this gets me going :)
Take care everybody.


- Jason Moynihan

P.S. I encourage you to reply to this email! Would love to get to know as many of you as possible. I welcome any criticism or comments!