Activation Energy

Activation energy is the minimum quantity of energy required for a reaction. The activation energy idea shows up every day in our lives in the form of the minimum amount of energy required to build momentum toward what we want/need to do.

Activation energy is why its hard to get to the gym on a cold morning. It is why getting started on something important is painful.

But, for those of us who have (at least on occasion) managed to make it to the gym on a cold morning, we have likely experienced that is easier to work out long and hard once we’re there.

Activation energy, thus, regularly stands between us and desired habits. So, it is worth understanding activation energy and how we can work with it.

Overcoming activation energy requires willpower. In the long run, the best use of willpower is to create habits. Habits, in turn, help us reduce the amount of activation energy required to get something. But, it isn’t easy to create good habits. So, here a couple of interesting questions for us to consider in our quest to do so –

1. What are ways to reduce the activation energy until we create a habit? For example, we could start the year with a commitment to go to the gym with a friend for the first 6 months. Or, perhaps, we might pay for a personal trainer.

2. Are there ways to bypass the friction and still reach the end outcome? A consistent home workout for a month may be a great way to get us into the habit. Once we consistently begin to feel the benefits of a good workout, it becomes to lower the activation energy threshold.

Like most things, activation energy is neither good or bad. It just is. And, our experience with it is what we make of it.


Later is more than a word – it is an idea whose judicious use can change our life.

When it comes to working on the most important priorities, we don’t ever want to use it. The more we use it, the more we procrastinate.

But, when dealing with behavior that does no good in the long term, it can be a very powerful word indeed. Willpower researchers have found that substituting “no” with “later” when dealing with temptations can successfully resolve the tension in our head.

Therein lies the power of later. Our minds mark the action we’re dealing with as resolved and ease the tension. There are times when easing the tension is useful and there are times when it is counter productive. “Later” can thus be the difference between delaying gratification and succumbing to temptations.

Use it wisely, we must.

Things always look better in the morning

Our willpower gets depleted over the course of the day. While food (specifically glucose) helps ensure we refuel on our willpower reserves, a good night’s sleep is the best way to recover from willpower depletion. So, if you’re either having a bad day or are just feeling exhausted after a day involving multiple decisions, go to bed.

Things seem to go from bad to worse by the evening as you get completely drained of your willpower resources and our natural instinct is to keep working at our to-do lists. Don’t. Sleep.

Things always look better in the morning. And, besides, those tasks that will take you 3 hours at night will probably be done within 30 minutes in the morning.

Pay attention to your willpower reserves. If there isn’t enough fuel in the tank, it isn’t possible to drive… let alone drive well and have some fun along the way.