Thoughts & Observations

On Friction and Habits

Sometimes replacing one point of friction with another can help make an old habit go away and a new one start to take hold.

I have been a bit of manic exerciser in my adult life, alternating between periods (read: years) of absolutely no exercise, followed by intense periods of often twice daily workouts and back-to-back dance classes, followed again by a long period of almost complete inactivity.

Enter Glennis.

Glennis is that new point of friction.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for Sessions, a program designed to slowly but surely help you replace old exercise habits (or lack thereof) with new ones. Everyone who signs up gets a virtual coach (a real person who calls you and texts you but doesn’t necessarily live nearby). Glennis is my coach.

It is Glennis who I think about when I lay in bed at 6:40 a.m., having that frequent internal debate about whether I should stay right where I am or get up and go to yoga.

It used to be that there was more friction in getting up. I had to extract myself from bed, put on my yoga gear, gather my stuff, and head out the door. And therefore I would usually stay in bed.

But now there is Glennis. There is more friction, more work to do, if I stay in bed then if I get out. I think through the fact that if I don’t do yoga that morning then I’m going to have to tell Glennis, feel disappointed in myself, and reschedule yoga for another day.

There is more friction there than in simply getting up and going, so I go.

Since human beings are pretty incapable of making choices today based on potential benefits in the future, that extra little bit of friction to prevent me from making a decision that seems inconsequential now but is not great for my long-term health makes all the difference.

Even though my going to yoga does have something to do with the benefits and the fact that I really do enjoy it, the truth is that the main reason I go is because it’s easier than not going.

Most of the time we stick with habits because they are easier to do then they are to not do. If you tip the friction scales, even just slightly, in the favor of the new, healthier habit, everything can change.

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