Discipline is an important trait, but I think we sometimes take it too far, and rely on it too heavily in areas where we probably shouldn’t. Charlie Munger says he will only play a game where he has an unfair advantage. Because there are always ways to set yourself up this way, I think we should try to do the same. This could be called stacking the deck or more tactfully; setting yourself up for success.
There’s a question in physical (and likely mental) rehabilitation that goes, “What happened before what happened happened?” Basically you are looking for the true or core catalyst for an outcome.
-You gained 2 lbs because you ate two boxes of cookies last week.
-You might look at this and say that eating the cookies was the reason for the weight gain, but that’s not actually the core catalyst.
-The core catalyst happened at the grocery store when you bought the cookies. Identifying these core catalysts helps you recognize when it’s a good time to exercise willpower.
Imagine the difference in willpower required for the two following options regarding cookies:
1. You buy the cookies and because they are at home you exercise willpower every night that you decide to not eat the cookies.
2. You exercise willpower ONE TIME at the grocery store and you do not buy the cookies—now eating them at home is not an option.
You’ve immediately set yourself up to win. I, for one, am extremely susceptible to eating whatever is in sight at home (my problem, not necessarily yours). So at the grocery store I am more conscious of the importance of my decisions, because I know what will likely happen next.
Remove barriers to desirable outcomes and put up barriers to undesirable outcomes.
One barrier I recently encountered was exercise related because I am now doing so much reading and writing at home away from the gym. Because I didn’t have as easy access to a facility, I was exercising less. Driving to the gym is a barrier. To remove this barrier (and for a variety of other reasons, fun being one of them) I had a jungle gym built in my back yard. Now the only barrier to me exercising is walking outside my back door into the yard.
When it comes to things you’re trying to avoid, sometimes a full barrier isn’t always possible, but you can still add speed bumps. The idea behind adding barriers or speed bumps is you can no longer arrive at these undesirable consequences unconsciously.If you want to quit playing a video game and add a barrier, throw the game away. If you want to add a speed bump, lock the game in a safe with a note that says, “Are you sure you want to spend your time this way?”
Control barriers and save willpower for events out of your control.
If you want to win, you need to stick with games where you have an unfair advantage. In most cases you can give yourself that advantage you need to win every time. All of these victories build momentum and that momentum breeds consistency. Consistent winning is going to let you achieve anything you want whether that is physically, mentally, or professionally.
Better Every Day,