When thinking about how to effectively use those “Bridges and Barriers” discussed in the last post, one thing that can be especially helpful, is if you can identify KEY ones, really powerful ones. Especially if you can do something about them. Because why burn up all your time and energy on some super-complex behaviour change journey, if you get a lot of bang for your buck by focusing on what is most likely to “really matter”?
And indeed, there are certain big factors that pretty much always play a huge role. Two of the very, very, very most powerful are Competence and Validation. We’re going to spend the next several posts deep-diving into these two INCREDIBLY POWERFUL tools.
Competence — ‘Know How’
In essence, this is about whether you have the information you need, and the skills required, to Do The Thing. That part is pretty obvious. And it’s also about how SPECIFIC and EASY the steps are that need to be undertaken, in order for you to Do The Thing. Because most Things involve multiple steps, multiple sub-Things.
Once you break down the overall behaviour into the relevant sub-steps, you will know precisely what you need to do, or what you need to learn or get help with. You will either know “I can Do This Thing”, OR you will know “I need to go ask Dude X, or watch YouTube videos, or google it, and learn how to Do The Thing.”
Knowing what steps you need to take makes it much easier to have a sense of competence, a sense of control, a sense that “you can do it!”
Without that? It’s really hard to take action. Breaking it down really, really helps to empower yourself.
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Now, that is all pretty obvious. That’s like, Level 1 of what we can glean from the deep, universal psychological need for competence.
But when you combine Competence with CONTEXT, then oooh boy, watch out. Magic shit is about to happen.
For example, breaking down “get healthy”, into sub-Things, like “eating better”, and “exercising”, then allows you to break those down further, if necessary, in order to make effective changes to your CONTEXT.
For example, “get healthy” ——> “exercise” ——> “do Yoga with Adrienne, or go rollerblading (depends on weather): 630-730 AM ——> How can I set up my context? ——> set an alarm; put out exercise clothes on the livingroom floor.
That’s usually enough for me; I always grab a banana or apple or something like that, maybe a handful of nuts, and a glass of water, but they don’t need to be prepped.
This means that Doing The Thing (“exercise”), becomes easy, and virtually automatic. Of course, I still need to roll out of bed and get up and get started, rather than hitting snooze and sleeping for an extra hour. THAT PART — is Willpower. (Basically.) You will need to just kick your own butt into gear, during those moments when you DO have to initiate your will in order to get started, or get out of something comfortable (a warm bed…), or persevere through a setback or challenge. Etc. Like I said before you DO need willpower sometimes. For me, getting out of bed is one of those times. AFTER THAT, it’s pretty automatic now to exercise; everything is just set up to make it easy.
Getting Out of Bed
I just said that getting out of bed is one of those times when you do need to dig in and find that inner grit. But, that’s also only partly true. You can make it wayyyy easier for yourself. Instead of relying on yourself to exert superhuman willpower when you just want to stay warm and snuggly (good luck with that…), find some REASON why getting out of bed is actually awesome. Not a bullshit reason that you convince yourself of when you’re doing some “value clarification exercise” or whatever. No, a real reason.
For example, for me, I basically have a mad crush on someone I play chess with online. And secondarily, I LOVE to see the colour of the sky in the morning. So — before I get all into goals and stuff? My alarm goes off, I reach over, open up chess.com, and look at the game with this person. So I get to feel all dreamy and lovey and everything, right away; I say something in chat, feel all warm and mushy, make the move (the chess move!! lol….). And then, I’m feeling happy already! Energized. Hey, let’s go look at the sky….
By the time I’ve looked at the sky, I have to pee anyway. And, well, might as well grab an apple and put on those exercise clothes that are sitting right there on the floor in the middle of the living room….
I think of this as “Intrinsic Motivational Scaffolding”. But, that really isn’t a great name. How about “greasing the path”? Hmmm…that sounds kinda dirty actually. But there you go — Intrinsic Motivational Scaffolding, or Greasing the Path — whatever floats your boat, my friend.
Be Precise — Like a Surgeon
The more precise you can get, in terms of the behaviours you need to undertake in order to accomplish your goals, the better. Because, once you have precisely identified The Things you need to Do, then, as illustrated above, you can pull the precise CONTEXTUAL levers that you need, in order to make Doing The Thing into the default, the Thing that is practically the easiest to do in that situation.
So, what are the precise things you need to do? What are the precise steps that you need to undertake? And do you know how to do those things? If so, then just plan when to do them, and do them. But if you are uncertain about how to do something, if you’re not sure EXACTLY how to do it, this can completely throw off all your progress. The simplest uncertainty that you don’t know how to overcome, makes doing ANYTHING ELSE seem more appealing. And so, you avoid the Thing.
Instead of more of THAT, just ask yourself, where can you learn what you need? Or who can you ask? Between YouTube and someone at Home Depot or Shoppers Drug Mart or [insert relevant place here], someone will know the answer. And then that’s it! You’ve broken your overall goal down into the barrier of not knowing something specific, and you’ve broken that down further into “Go to Home Depot and ask the Dude how to Do The Thing.” And THAT is an easily accomplishable goal.
Like a surgeon not wanting to damage more tissue or create more complications than necessary, you also want to not make more work for yourself than necessary. Keep the confusion down, keep the stress down, keep the complexity down. Be precise; what needs to be changed exactly? Then, you will know what CONTEXTUAL factors will make that happen. (And you don’t need any stern daddy-figure online telling you what rules to follow….oh and would you buy his book and self-help program?)
And that’s it. Magic.