Do you pay attention to the role of “friction” when trying to change your behavior? You might want to lose weight, save more money, or be more present by cutting back on social media. Despite your best efforts, sticking with the new desired behavior can be challenging.

If you’re struggling to change using self-control, consider the “friction” that exists between you and the desired behavior.

🔗 Law of Least Effort

In his book “Thinking Fast and Slow,” Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D. discusses the “Law of Least Effort.” He explains that we generally avoid things that require effort, both real and perceived, including mental and cognitive effort, as well as physical effort.


So, if self-control isn’t an effective way to change your behavior, what’s a better approach?  Pay attention to “friction.”


🌱 How to Develop Good Habits

When trying to develop a good habit, first identify the friction that makes it hard to perform the desired action. Then, remove as much friction as possible so that you can do the action automatically without thinking. 

Here are some ways to reduce friction, along with specific examples:

🔹 Reduce the number of steps

Make it easier to engage in the desired behavior by simplifying the process and removing unnecessary steps.

Example: Choose a gym close to your workplace to eliminate the extra step of driving out of your way.

🔹 Prime yourself for the desired action

Prepare your environment and set up cues to remind yourself of the desired behavior.

Example: Place a book you want to read on your nightstand, so you’re reminded of it and prepared to start reading before bed.

🔹 Make it a default

Automate processes that align with your goals, making it easier to follow through with the desired behavior.

Example: Set up automatic transfers to your savings or investment account each month.

🔹 Remove ambiguity

Create a clear execution plan that specifies when, where, and how you’ll perform the desired action.

Example: Schedule a specific time, place, and duration for your daily walk or jog.

🔹 Use existing habits

Leverage your current routines to build new habits, making it easier to integrate the new behavior.

Example: Stretch right after brushing your teeth each morning.


🚫 How to get rid of bad habits

To get rid of bad habits, add as much friction to them as possible. Make it more difficult and less appealing to perform the actions you want to stop. 

Here are some ways to reduce friction, along with specific examples:

🔹 Increase the effort required

Make it more challenging to engage in the bad habit by adding extra steps or obstacles.

Example: Install a website blocker on your computer to limit your access to distracting websites, like social media or news sites.

🔹 Change your environment

Modify your surroundings to make the bad habit less accessible or appealing.

Example: Don’t buy unhealthy snacks and don’t keep them at home. If you really want to eat them, you’ll need to go to a store and buy them specifically, which adds extra effort.


🔹 Replace the bad habit with a positive alternative

Identify a healthier or more productive behavior that can fulfill the same need or desire as the bad habit.

Example: Instead of reaching for your phone to scroll through social media, pick up a book or engage in a hobby that promotes personal growth and relaxation.


🔹 Implement negative reinforcement

Create consequences for engaging in the bad habit.

Example: For every 15 minutes spent on social media beyond your daily limit, commit to donating a dollar to a cause you don’t support.


📝 Take Action Now

To develop good habits, remove as much friction as possible. Conversely, add friction to eliminate bad behaviors. 

Leveraging the power of friction can significantly ease habit formation and removal.

Keep in mind that even small frictions can substantially impact your behavior, so don’t underestimate their potential in fostering lasting changes.

Next time you struggle with self-control, consider adjusting the friction in your life. Embrace the power of friction and witness the transformation of your habits!