Slices of Friction

The goal is jazz. By that, I mean to be able to pick up your instrument of choice and just play—in a way that is both enjoyable and productive. We can call it deliberate practice, improvisation, or just playing around. Whatever the language, the process is something that satisfies both your feeling of pleasure and your sense of progress. Here, I’m speaking here about health behaviours.

  • Just imagine feeling hungry just as you’re putting the finishing touches on something that is tasty, filling, and meets the right combination of nutrients and calories to nourish you.
  • That you are highly tuned-into sensations of fatigue at the end of your day—and—in those moments—you are perfectly ready to slip into a deeply comfortable and relaxing sleep.
  • That the moment you pick up an exercise implement or get into an athletic position, you have complete clarity on how to move. Even better, you know how to create any range of moods—from calm and meditative to downright stoked—through movement.
  • During moments of stress or anxiety, that you know exactly what to do to take care of yourself and return to feeling centred and present.

You can imagine how great it would be if this were all easy and automatic. So, the real question is how to make it so. That begins with shedding layers of friction.

The Tiny Habits framework describes our frictions as an Ability Chain that is composed of the following links:

Time and money—both forms of wealth—make things easier. However, they don’t accomplish anything in isolation. A lack of time or money is a genuine constraint but not a deal-killer.

Routine can add or take away friction in powerful ways. For example, if you were magically teleported to your grocery store, kitchen, workout spot, or bed at the right times every day, a lot of good things would happen more automatically. On the other hand, imagine being in transit when fatigue hits, next to a dodgy restaurant when hunger hits, or in the middle of a meeting when it’s time to exercise. Routine is powerful—and the door swings both ways.

Finally, we have physical and mental effort. For exercise, the physical effort piece is non-negotiable. It’s a feature, not a bug. For everything else—including exercise—mental effort is the real sticking point. Let’s lay out the frictions that we often encounter within:
 

  • A lack of clarity
  • A lack of confidence
  • Second-guessing and other overthinking
  • A lack of patience
  • A lack of support or guidance


When motivation is high, we bound over these frictions in order to get started. When motivation is low, however, we sometimes have just enough juice to get past the frictions—with nothing left for the actual work.

So here’s my question for you: what’s one thing you can do today to eliminate friction?