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The Path of Least Resistance

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The 20-Second Rule

Turn bad habits into good ones by minimizing barriers to change.

Overview

Lowering the barrier to making a change (AKA the “activation energy”) by just 20 seconds can help you begin a new (healthy!) habit.  The more we reduce, or even eliminate, the energy required to activate our desires, the more we easily we can start positive change. 

Limiting the choices we have to make also helps lower the barrier to positive change.  

The less energy it takes to kick start a positive habit, the more likely the habit will stick. 

Forming a habit doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes persistence, so be patient.

Building the path of least resistance

Think of something you’ve wanted to do, and identify the barriers that keep you from it. Now choose one of those barriers and reduce or eliminate it. With less activation energy required, you can really get started.  Pick something you want to start doing and apply the 20-second rule for a week.
        
Goal: exercise in the morning 
  • Barrier: preparation. Lay out your exercise clothing next to your bed in the evening so you will see them first thing in the morning, or better yet, wear the clothes to bed! 
  • Barrier: distraction. If you tend to look at a tablet or phone before getting out of bed, do not bring the device into the bedroom. Instead, use an alarm clock to wake up. 
  • Barrier: nutrition. If you need coffee or food to get moving, set the coffee maker to brew right before you wake up, and set out your breakfast the night before.   

Supporting healthy habits

In addition, the path of least resistance can be applied to habits you WANT to continue!  Make it easy to do the things you love.  For example,
  • Make adjustments to your kitchen’s accessibility so you can continue to express yourself through baking or cooking. 
  • Prep for dinner in the morning when you have more energy so you can continue enjoying healthy meals throughout the day. 
  • If you liked being part of a book club but find it difficult to read, rent or purchase audio books instead of hard copies.  
Read about how Robert was able to continue his passion for gardening after his diagnosis. 

Share your experience with others

Need help getting started?  Visit the Everyday Matters group for more 20-second tips from people living with MS.  Have a great tip?  Share it and it could be a game changer for someone else.

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