Train Yourself with Need Distance

I have been a habit nerd for a while, and now I am doing something super simple.

Just have a list of commands. A day routine and a night routine.

No more willpower, just directions. Train myself like a dog (e.g. clicker training).

The easiest leverage for habits is trigger. Trigger when the need distance is shortest. Need distance is the distance (both physical and cognitive) the agent perceives until he/she fulfills a need.

Need distance to a well five miles away is much farther than need distance to the cup of water sitting in front of me. Simple stuff.

Here is where it gets interesting.

Likelihood of Action = (Need Strength)/(Need Distance)

If the water is five miles away, but I really want to drink that water, I will go. But, eh, I am not thirsty, but the cup of water is in front of me, so I will drink it.

The key to increasing likelihood of action (e.g. start reading books more) is increasing the need strength or decreasing the need distance. The former is much harder, the latter is much less natural (it’s not a human intuition).

But decreasing need distance is super easy once you reframe the problem.

Instead of struggling to go to the gym every day, buy some dumbbells. To fulfill the need of “I feel fit”, make the distance even shorter by saying, “I will only do 1 rep a day.” Create success cycles (BJ Fogg’s B = MAT goes into this).

To decrease likelihood of action (e.g. addiction), decrease the need (which is nigh impossible), or increase the need distance.

Every time you play a video game, play it, but make sure you uninstall every time. By adding the distance of installation, you have lengthened the need distance.

The trick to this is: don’t try to use willpower. Let yourself walk that distance. Install (and maybe make your internet slower, too), then play a game of Dota 2. After a while, you will be exhausted, and start *perceiving* the need distance correctly.

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