Friday, July 8, 2016

Harness Your Activation Energy

Last month I wrote a post on The Power of Positivity, as based on the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. I think this book is so hands-down amazing that I also want to use this month's post to share another powerful tidbit from it.

This month's post is centered around the concept of chapter six, "The 20-Second Rule", which is all about how to harness the power of activation energy to change your habits.

When trying to change a habit, whether it's creating a new good habit or ceasing a bad one, most of us default to trying to use our willpower. We say we'll eat more vegetables, exercise twice as much, drill our zills at every practice, or stick to a budget. And how will we do that? Um, well, by just willing ourselves to do it. Right. And how's that working for you? If it's anything like me, not very well. And while that approach may work for a short time, it will hardly ever work for the long-term. That's because the more you use your willpower, the more worn-out it gets. It's not a limitless supply, so your stores get depleted and before you know it, you run out. That's why so many New Year's resolutions are broken by February.

The effective way to change a habit, is to forget about willpower and instead use the power of activation energy. Cue super hero music. Activation energy is about the path of least resistance. Activation energy is about making it easy. Hallelujuah. It's inherent human nature that the easier something is, the more likely it is that we are going to do it. Conversely, the more energy it takes to do something, the less likely we are to muster the energy to make it happen.  I think the easiest way to quickly grasp the concept is with an illustration.

Say my goal is to practice my zills every evening. However, I keep my zills stored in a basket in the back of my closet, so each evening I have to go scrounge around in the basket to find them. Then once I have them, I realize my practice area is not big enough, so I have to move my coffee table out of the way so I have room to move around. When the space is finally big enough, I realize that I'm not sure what exactly to practice, so I decide I have to dig out a zills video and pop it into the DVD player. So by the time I actually start to play, I've already expended some 10+ minutes worth of energy getting setup without having even started on the goal itself. How likely am I to go through this lengthy process each evening? Not very. However, if my zills are sitting out, my practice area is clear, and my DVD is already in the player and I can just hit play and begin, I'm much more likely to actually practice my zills.

Make sense?

The power of activation energy can also be used to help stop negative habits as well. Say for example, I want to spend less time on social media. If I do the one simple step of uninstalling my social media apps from my phone, I've made it one step harder for me to get onto social media, and thus less likely more me to lose hours on Instagram or Pinterest, because now it takes more activation energy for me to do so.

So simple, but so genius! I highly recommend you read the whole book to get the detailed information on activation energy, as well as the other positive psychology topics covered in the book.

As always, I like to bring it back to the dance focus, so I'll throw out a couple ideas of how the power of activation energy could potentially be used to further your dance practice:
  • Leave your zills or other props out so that they can easily be picked up and used. Out somewhere that's in front of a mirror is even better. Putting them where you usually put your TV remote or computer mouse, while the remote or mouse goes to the top of a tall shelf is the best.
  • Keep your practice area clear of furniture, clutter, and other impediments to movement.
  • Keep your practice DVD in the DVD player.
  • Sign up and pre-pay for a class series. It takes energy to decide to go to class each week. If you make the decision once, then you don't have to use energy to re-make the decision each week. 
  • If working on a costume, leave the costume and all your sewing supplies out on a table.
  • Buy a tripod for your phone or video camera, figure out a good recording angle and height at the edge of your practice area, and leave it there so you can pop your device on it and press record at any point in time so you can get instant video feedback.
  • If you aren't practicing because you're watching TV or spending time on the Internet, figure out what will make it harder for you to do those activities. Take the batteries out of the TV remote and put them in another room. Or get the Self Control app which will lock you out of social media after the time period you tell it. 
  • Have all your belly dance related music in one folder, playlist, or organized system so you can easily locate it and hit the play button.
  • Bookmark or utilize your other preferred online tagging method to store your favorite websites, videos, or other online resources for easy access, rather than trying to Google them again later.
  • If trying to read a dance related book or magazine, leave the book out on your coffee table or next to your bed.
Those are just a few ideas. You know you best, so brainstorm what works best for you. Think easy. Think path of least resistance and watch yourself start to develop new habits. Power activated!