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January 24, 2024

Simplifying Behavior

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What’s interesting about personal development is it’s both very old and very new at the same time. There are some proven, tried principles that will (as long as we are still human) continue to be true for everyone. But then there’s the constant inflow of new information - studies, science, technologies, etc. - that has helped us explain and expand on those same principles.

Today I want to just simplify it down to the very basics. That’s not to say the tactics and technical details aren’t important, but they become much more valuable when you know exactly what foundation they’re meant to fit into.

Let’s focus on positive behaviors - things you can do that make you healthier, more productive, or help you reach your goals. Everything else comes from the simple understanding that positive behaviors come from knowing what we want to do, having a plan to do it, and then actually doing it.

The goal is to get as much clarity as possible on each so that we know exactly how it’s all going to work. We can use motivational strategies, behavioral design, psychology, gamification, incentivization, or whatever we want to support the behavior.

But again, it needs to be within the foundation and first principles of taking action: Knowing what to do, having a plan to do it, and actually doing it.

This reminds me of the difference between being effective and being efficient. They’re often said in the same breath but there’s an important order of operations. We must first make sure the behavior is effective. This means that it produces the specific outcome we want it to. Then once we have that confidently in place, that’s when we can think about more creative tactics to make it more efficient.

Otherwise, you might be investing a lot of time and energy in making something better at doing the wrong thing.

Again, with this simplified view of behavior, what matters most is that you know what to do, you have a plan to do it, and you actually follow through on doing it. If there’s a particular behavior that comes to mind, use this framework to help inform what you want to focus on to make it more effective, more efficient, and more reliable.

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