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Novelty and loyalty

Jun Han Chin
Jun Han Chin
People perk up at the idea of starting something new or the prospect of making a positive change.
That’s because change is engaging. It promises something better. It’s novel and arrests attention.
But after we get used to something, that novelty fades and it once again becomes boring. This is the defining moment.
Do we really want the desired outcome or the dopamine hit that comes with the pursuit of something new and exciting?
For most of us, it should be a combination of both. We want change because there is something we desire. At the same time, we also enjoy the instant gratification of thinking that we’re doing something important and exciting.
To sustain the change effort when the novelty effect wears off, we need to do 2 things: (1) Exceed homeostasis, and (2) keep questioning ourselves to stay loyal to the mission.
(1) Exceeding homeostasis
What is homeostasis? It’s the tendency of a system to act in a way that maintains its own stability.
For example, it’s challenging when you start exercising. But after several days, your body adapts to it and the physical strain becomes normal. You get used to it. You’ll find that you can now do more than what you used to be able to do.
If you continue to do the same things, you’ll get bored and quit.
How does this apply to committing to a mission?
After you get used to the initial change, things become boring. You can trigger the novelty effect by challenging yourself to do a little better.
Running is a painful experience but it instantly becomes fun when I try to run faster than my previous run.
Meditating is boring to me but it instantly becomes engaging when you try to see how many consecutive days of meditation you can do.
Doing my physiotherapy exercises for my injuries is one of the most dreadful things I have to do, but trying to do more repetitions of the exercise than yesterday makes it more bearable.
In short, find a way to make things interesting by increasing the difficulty.
(2) Staying loyal to our mission by coming back to these questions periodically
  • What does success look like?
  • How will I know when I have achieved it?
  • What does progress look like?
  • What is the cost of inaction?
  • What do I need to do today to move the needle, however small it is?
  • What can I complete in the next 5 minutes?
We just crossed into the second half of 2022.
Very often, I get to December before I realise that I’ve neglected some of the most important new year resolutions I had. If this has happened to you before, consider taking some time out to reflect.
I find these 12 questions to be especially useful when reviewing my goals and making sure I get back on track.
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Jun Han Chin
Jun Han Chin @junhanchin

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