top of page

The Method Trap

I was recently listening to an episode of The Huberman Lab—a favourite podcast of mine—and the guest on the episode said something that has been sitting with me for some time now:

"The concepts are few, the methods are many."

Dr. Andy Galpin, Huberman Lab Podcast

He shared this in the context of exercise. Specifically, understanding how to train for different exercise goals that a person might have.

Let's explore this quote together.

It's true that every method has an underlying concept.

Put another way, the large list of things you do on a daily basis, can be explained by a small list of reasons why you might be doing them.

An example

A concept I care deeply about is continuous learning.

Here are some methods I'm using to live out this concept:

  • Read each day

  • Ask interesting questions

  • Listen to people and stories

I could go on, and I'm sure you get the idea.

I probably didn't even need to show you this example, but there's an important point I want to illustrate here.

It's more of a trap really.

Back to what I said earlier:

Every method has an underlying concept.

The trap can be broken down into three stages:

  1. We fall in love with the method.

  2. We believe that this method is the most effective way of living out the concept.

  3. Something gets in the way of us carrying out this method, we become frustrated, unhappy, or even disillusioned.

How to get out of the trap when you find yourself in it

Methods range in their subtlety.

Let's define a method that takes a dedicated amount of time, as an obvious method, and let's define a subtle method as one that doesn't take dedicated time.

To better explain this, let's contrast two methods that I outlined above.

  1. Reading: If I have to set aside time to read each day, this is an obvious method for living out the concept of continuous learning.

  2. Listening to a podcast: I can listen to a podcast while doing many other things, things that I likely have to do anyway—dinner prep and folding laundry to name a few. So let's put this in the subtle method category.

So, let's suppose you've found yourself in the method trap.

The first thing to do is assess your method on the subtlety scale.

Side note: I'm willing to bet that you've fallen in love with is an obvious method.

After you've done this, remind yourself of the concept, and then try to find a new method (because there are many methods) that is on the opposite end of the subtlety scale.

This either means you need to carve out dedicated time for something—if you're pursuing an obvious method—or you need to layer on a method into something you already have to do.

As with a lot of things, I think the leverage lies on the subtle end of the scale.

p.s. If you have two minutes, I think this post pairs well with one I wrote last year: Reps.

dark blue background with a yellow graduated squares in the middle

bottom of page