The Happiness Advantage: The Unofficial Review Guide



SIX: The 20-Second Rule

Principle #6: The 20-Second Rule

The 20-Second Rule is based on our natural gravitation to activities which are easy to get started on. It's been proven that we will do something less satisfying than something else solely because it's easier to get going. Just because we know the right thing to do, we don't automatically do it. An example was given that 44% of doctors, who should know better than anybody the importance of exercise and a healthy diet, are overweight. (p.145)

Willpower alone is insufficient to make the right choices. (p.152)

If we can lower barriers to activation for positive activities, we can begin to form habits. Likewise, if we raise barriers to activation for negative activities, we can break those habits. (p.154)

The key to redirecting our path, that is to focus on the productive uses of our time whether for work or leisure, is the 20-Second Rule (named for the author's example of eliminating the 20 second walk to his closet to retrieve his guitar, which was what it took to start practicing it as he desired). Create MORE resistance for undesired behaviors, and LESS resistance for the desired ones. (p.160)

A couple examples to illustrate this are:

To eliminate wasted time in email, turn the program off, set it to not check email automatically and alert you to new messages, and even bury the program link in nested folders to make it more work to get to. (p.164)

To make it easier to start working out in the morning, sleep in your gym clothes and decide on your workout before going to bed. (p.165)

You can also set "rules of engagement" to mentally shortcut the decision-making process. By deciding on planned patterns of behavior in advance, you make it automatic for your brain to enforce your rules in the heat of the moment. An example is a rule that you don't drive after even a single drink, which eliminates poor decisions made later. (p.167)

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The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor