“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” -Amelia Earhart

A simple graph of the activation energy required to start a reaction with and without a catalyst present.

Why do we sometimes think about doing something and then fail to do it?

Activation energy is a measure of the work that must be done before a chemical reaction occurs spontaneously. There is virtually no activation energy required to, say, spend time on social media, because it actively sends notifications directly to your pocket.

But putting on your gym clothes and driving to the gym requires an energy investment before the workout will begin to proceed spontaneously. Often we are too frazzled after a long day to make this investment.

To overcome this natural human tendency we can employ a catalyst. This is an additional ingredient that lowers the activation energy of a reaction. For instance, in his book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Harvard professor Shawn Achor writes that he sleeps in his gym clothes to reduce the activation energy required to initiate a morning workout.

What is an activity in your own life that you sometimes think about doing but fail to initiate? How could you catalyze this reaction?


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