I am going to use the term “friction” in this blog as a way to represent the forces that oppose actions you wish to take. As the picture implies, you can start a fire with enough friction. You need to learn to reduce the friction in your life in many areas, but you can also use this in reverse to help avoid some of your not so good habits and patterns as well. Let’s explore…
To be sure to give credit where credit is due, I am rereading James Clear’s Atomic Habits again and I am guessing that this is one reason this concept is top of mind. I also brought on a new coaching client and we are using this principal to assist his efforts. He has some very good habits and patterns already in place, but there are some areas that need work, and we are applying friction to hinder certain actions. In the interest of confidentiality, I will not use any specific examples from my client discussions, but I’ll use some from my life instead.
This is an easy one to start with: taking supplements each day. I am a fitness fanatic and I believe that the use of supplements is a key piece of the optimization. To help ensure I stay on the regimen I laid out for myself, I reduce the friction for myself. All of the supplements I want to take at night are on the countertop in my bathroom, and so is a bottle of water. I use a little of the water from that full bottle to ingest the pills I want to take then, and that leaves me about 20 ounces of water waiting for me to drink in the morning. It is room temperature by then, so chugging the bottle in the morning after using mouthwash is easy and not a shock to my system. Save the chugging of really cold water for when you are overheated.
I have noticed one of the best things I can do for myself as a morning ritual is to drink about 20 ounces of water on an empty stomach to start off the day. Having the water already waiting for me makes this easy, and I know that I can quickly get derailed from things like this when extra effort is needed to accomplish the task. As easy as it sounds to “remember to take your supplements”, we all know that the rule of out of sight out of mind kicks in very easily. Keeping this front and center as part of my routine allows me to have these little successes accumulate into the overall benefits I am trying to obtain. In this example, I am removing friction to make sure that I am doing the things I need to do.
In the inverse of this, I can also use friction to help ensure that I do NOT do certain things that I consider detrimental to my goals. For example, I am a huge fan of soda, despite knowing just how harmful this stuff is. Did you know you can use Coca-Cola to clean battery acid and/or oil off of your driveway? Its very effective at eating the oil off of your driveway, which begs the question: should I be ingesting this stuff? No, of course not. Certainly not in anything other than minimal quantities at most. So I help my cause of avoiding this temptation by not having any soda in my house. To have a soda, I would have to grab my keys, drive to the gas station nearby, purchase the soda, drive home and then drink it at my house like I wanted to. That is a lot of friction, and enough to deter this behavior. Instead, I have a lot of unsweetened Ice Tea in the refrigerator as the replacement. It is literally just flavored water, which is a good substitute for the soda. I know I need to drink more water, and I am well aware of the positive impact of this when I am consistent, and drinking the tea instead of the soda helps accomplish this. I really love the taste of Coke, especially with things like pizza and wings, oh man, I am drooling just thinking about it. BUT…I add friction into that equation and it virtually eliminates the consumption of it or at least reserves its ingestion for a “special occasion” or treat.
That was an easy one, but how about we take a bigger picture of how to deploy this strategy. One of the new modern conveniences that you can add to your life is a forced savings plan. If you have your employer take out money to contribute to your 401K and other retirement funds, this happens before you ever see your checks. You don’t have to do anything to save this money, and you are not tempted to keep the money in hand to use for whatever you wish. That portion of your paycheck has a job to do, and that job is to earn more money for the future. You need to make sure that money does its job, and the only way that can happen is to remove all friction from the process. But you can take this a step further with apps like MINT and others. According to the website Finder.com, these are some of the best apps for this purpose. Some of these apps will allow you to add money from regular everyday purchases like coffee and gas and round up the change to an even dollar mark and push that difference into your savings account. Again, by automating this and removing all friction to the process you end up saving money over time. It seems more people should be using something like this, as many as 35% of Americans have no money saved for retirement according to thewebsite The Motley Fool.
If you are trying to quit smoking, you need to not only avoid taking a smoke break every couple of hours, but avoid the friends who do that too. You need to not purchase anymore cigarettes and you need to learn what triggers instigated that behavior in the first place. NO ONE likes their first cigarette, but lots of people “push through” that initial stage because they think they are gaining something by doing so. It might be social acceptance or other reasons, but there is a perceived pay off for this behavior. Do you only smoke when you drink or are in social settings like a bar? Maybe you need to decouple those experiences from one another, or more likely change the routine you have on Friday nights. Go to a bar that doesn’t have anywhere to smoke. Now, I am aware that this may be oversimplifying things, personally never started smoking, so I can’t speak to how difficult it is to quit. But as I eluded to above with my soda addition, I have some idea of what its like. I am going to go out on a limb and state that most addictive behaviors are difficult to remove from your life, but not impossible. If I held a gun to your held for a week straight, you could quit smoking very easily. It is a matter of motivation. Then again…isn’t everything?
Here is your takeaway from this blog:
Adding or removing friction from any process
makes the end goal easier to accomplish.
If you add friction where you are trying to avoid behaviors and remove friction when you are trying to install better actions, you will be well on your way to achieving what you want as an end result. You know that you have things you want to more of or less of, so deploy this simple strategy to hit your targets. Don’t rely on your will power to do the trick; for some it will only last a day or two, for others, maybe a week. You need to change your behavior to a different approach, not just resist the temptations. Stick with the pattern of behavior change for about 30 days and you’re off and running to a new habit. It can be as simple as that, if you let it.
As always, I wish you luck in your endeavors.