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August 29th, 2019


In the realm of physics, friction has two coefficients: static and kinetic.  But everyone understands this implicitly: getting something to move is always harder than it is to keep it moving.


From this simple intuition, it should make sense that the coefficient of static friction is always greater than the coefficient of kinetic friction.





Delightfully, this seems to be symmetrically relevant in the realm of psychology and habit formation.


It’s easier to keep a habit going than it is to start one.


It’s that first month that’s always the hardest, but after that, it gets remarkably easier to keep going.



With how many things do we give only a few days of effort?


How many bad habits come back after some similarly short stint of abstinence?



On a local level, it feels as though it’ll always be as difficult to maintain the new behavior as it is in the beginning.  But this is not true.  After that first month, the static friction gives away to the easier, lower kinetic friction.  And with habits that are continued long enough, they seem to gain their own momentum as though that kinetic friction gives way completely as they generate their own fuel.


The key here is to plan a sustained sprint through the first month with staggered rewards to break the month up into smaller, manageable units, each one offering something to look forward to.  This is how we dismantle the coefficient of static friction and initiate new stages of behavior within ourselves.


Without chopping up that first month into manageable stretches of time, it becomes an intimating monolith….






A monolith that feels impossible to move…




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Podcast Ep. 501: Coefficients of Friction

Tinkered Thinking

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