Have you ever really really wanted to do something. Or known that you should do it.
Exercise more. Eat better. Be nicer to your other half. Spend more time with the kids.
It’s not easy. Change never is.
So, why don’t we just do it – what gets in our way?
Some people say you just need willpower. Set a goal – decide to do something and then get on with it.
Maybe it has to do with tracking. Measure yourself, keep records, take photos. That should work right?
It might have done, once. But for many of us, as life gets more complicated and full of stuff, we run into problems.
And a model from chemistry can help us understand this.
Let’s say you want to turn methane and oxygen into carbon dioxide and water. Methane and oxygen are the inputs.
You need to start by burning the methane – adding a spark – a flame.
That flame is needed to get things started. Without it, nothing happens. Once it’s there, the burning starts, the reaction takes off and we get the output.
Let’s compare this process to one many of us struggle with. Getting ready to go to the gym.
Let’s say you want to go first thing in the morning – perhaps 6am.
If you stagger into bed after a late night watching films and downing a few beers it’s going to take a lot more energy to get you out of bed when the alarm goes.
If you need to rummage through the wash basket to find your gym clothes, retrieve your shoes from the back of the cupboard and get any others stuff you need together – you’re using up more energy.
If you’ve booked a gym 20 minutes away from home because it’s got great facilities, you need to think about the 40 minute drive you have to do – is there time before work?
Perhaps it’s easier just to stay in bed.
What you’ve done is increased the activation energy needed to get you exercising to such a high level that the reaction never happens.
You turn off the alarm, roll over and go back to sleep.
Now – what happens when you add a catalyst?
A catalyst in chemistry speeds up the reaction – it lowers the activation energy needed.
In the gym example, if you sort your bag out the previous night, leave your gym clothes next to the bed, get your shoes and socks ready, join a gym a five minute drive away and go to bed at a decent time – you’re much more likely to make what you want happen.
In many cases – using more energy – working harder is not the answer.
Using a catalyst is – reducing the amount of energy needed to do something. Removing barriers, eliminating decisions and cutting out distractions.
Take sales for example. If you set yourself a target of making 100 calls a day, you’ll burn out in a week.
If you decide to make one connection a day – a call, an email, a LinkedIn contact – at the end of a year, you’ll have 300-400 more leads than you had at the start.
If you really want to do something – don’t try and work harder.
Set up your life so that it’s as easy to do as possible.
Then, even if you don’t feel like it, your system will kick in and you’ll get it done anyway.