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Behaviours and Tools

I want to explain a trap I've fallen into. Almost too often.

I really want to start doing a thing. Maybe it's a thing I'm already doing and I want to do it better, or maybe it's a thing I want to start doing.

Let's say the thing is, shaving my beard.

Note: this is a true story.

My old pattern of shaving used to be a once-a-week-ish shave.

Well, in reality it was more like, wait-until-my-beard-annoys-me, then shave.

One day, I decided I want to start shaving more often.

I was already doing a thing and I wanted to do it better.

Part of my laziness around the behaviour of shaving was that it was yet another thing to do in the bathroom routine.

It took (extra) effort.

So then I thought, well what if I shave while having a shower? Two in one!

Genius. Right?

I went online and purchased a "shower mirror." In other words, a mirror that doesn't fog up.

I followed the instructions for adhering the mirror to the shower wall, and I was all set.

For (I think) two weeks, my shaving habits changed. I was no longer waiting for the point of beard annoyance.

Then the mirror started to peel.

Then the mirror fell off the wall.

I attempted to salvage it by propping the mirror up on a small ledge we have in our shower.

But it was too late.

I warmly welcomed back beard annoyance.

So, what's the lesson here?

It's one I want to think I've got better at, but sometimes, I really don't know if I have.

The lesson is not: Buy a higher quality shower mirror.

The lesson is: Buying a tool, won't solve a behaviour problem.

Despite how much optimism our present self might have about how our future self will be improved by the tool we're so excited to purchase, the tool we've researched to the nth degree, just be warned. It's a trap.

Buying dumbbells doesn't make you more likely to exercise.

Buying (any) software doesn't make you more like to become better at whatever the software promises.

I could go on.

Why are we like this?

Well, dopamine probably.

We're also pretty great at avoiding effort, and we love immediate gratification.

It takes effort to actually improve (or start) the behaviour. The gratification is also delayed.

It takes almost no effort at all to buy the tool and in our world of instant delivery, the gratification is immediate.

Next time you recognize this trap, just pause and ask yourself what effort you're avoiding.

navy blue background with an image of a white shaving blade on it

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