Making changes – the pain comes first

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There’s a training principle called SAID – Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands.

What it means is that your body will adapt to the demands you place on it. So if you go running (regularly! not just once) your body will adapt to be better at running (fitter heart, improved blood circulation, lower body fat).

Same thing if you lift heavy shit on a regular basis. You will adapt to make it easier (lower body fat, stronger muscles, etc. etc.).

This also applies mentally. So what do you think will happen if you sit on your arse all day thinking depressing thoughts? You’ll get better at sitting around being depressed.

The flip side

Instead of thinking about how you’ve adapted to your current lifestyle, I want you to think about how you can use this principle to design the life you want.


There’s this chick I know who goes to the gym. She says she doesn’t want to do box jumps because she doesn’t look “like a gazelle” like the other girls ding box jumps.

But here’s the thing – which is going to make her look like a gazelle? Not doing box jumps, or doing box jumps? Is she hoping one day she’ll suddenly jump like a gazelle and only then she’ll do box jumps?

You adapt to the demands you place on yourself. Which means you have to do gazelle-like things first, and then eventually you’ll end up jumping like a gazelle.

You pay the price first, then you get the reward.

Life changes

The same applies to any change in your life. You have to impose the demand first, before you’ll start to adapt.

And I do mean impose.Forcefully exerting your will against something that doesn’t want to change.

This applies nicely to mental thought patterns. And it’s the reason why “fake it till you make it works”.

If you spent the last 5 years waking up feeling like shit. Then being depressed all day. Then going to bed having spent the day not really living. Do you think one morning you’re suddenly going to catch a case of happiness?

No. You’re going to be miserable forever.

But if you put unimaginably huge amounts of effort into making yourself smile all day long. And you forcefully cut off depressing thoughts and force yourself to notice the nice things around you. And you do this all day, every day. Do you not suppose that after a while it won’t become natural?

Positive examples

Courage – There’s a fairly well-worn (but not nearly well-known enough) saying about being courageous. It goes like this:

You do the thing you’re scared of. And you get the courage afterwards.

You don’t magically find courage to be brave, so that the thing is less scary so that you can face it more easily.

Afraid not. You don’t get brave. It doesn’t get easier for you to face the scary thing.

It sucks. And it’s fucking terrifying. And you get to make yourself do it anyway.

Afterwards you might find it wasn’t as bad as you thought. Maybe.

But what are your choices? Do the shitty thing you fear, and adapt to become a person that does the shitty things they fear. Or don’t do it, and adapt to become someone who folds in the face of fear.

Waking up

Waking up early has become fashionable (again). But it sucks. It really does.

So how to get better at it? By doing it.

Everybody wants to try go to bed early so they can wake up early without much effort, and without feeling like crap.

Ha! You won’t be sleepy enough the first day. You won’t fall asleep early.

You have to impose the demand first, then you adapt.

You have to wake up early first (despite the crappiness). and eventually it gets less crappy.

How long does this take?

I’ve heard it from a (in my experience) reliable source that it takes 3 weeks of daily, purposeful practice to set a habit. After which it becomes easier and more ingrained.

The negative

I want to look at a negative example.Drugs.

How does someone give up drugs? Well, not to sound obvious, but they have to stop taking them.[1] They stop taking them first, and then afterwards it gets easier to not take them.

How many industries exist to help people change their lives, by trying to make it easier on them first? How many shrinks, coaches, gurus and “advisors” sell people on the idea that they can make the life-changes less painful.

Here’s a Taleb-like test: If the person if trying to convince you that you can adapt before you impose the demands, then they’re full of shit.

The sinister

You impose the demand for long enough, a person will adapt to internalise it.

Well what about changing a people’s language?

This is the Orwell/Whorf hypothesis.

First you change a people’s language, then their thought patterns adapt to internalise that change.

A question and a point:

1- Imagine being angry, but you have no word for “anger”. No words to describe that emotion. How can you experience those feelings? (I.e. Orwell’s NewSpeak.)

2 – You know how you don’t remember anything from before a certain age? Children only store memories after they have a certain level of language development.[2] The language is used like a filing system for recording, making sense of, then storing memories.

So if, hypothetically, you took a bunch of young kids and “taught”[3] them that gay sex was perfectly acceptable (and you did this before they’d had a chance to learn about straight sex), how do you think they’d adapt to this imposed demand?

[1] – No one is saying this is easy.

[2] – Like most things mental, we’ve barely scratched the surface of understand memory. This is most likely a co-dependant development. The first co-development, for example, is likely to understand that humns produce sounds (language development), and then recognising that this one human who feed you has a certain set of sounds (remembering your mother’s voice).

[3] – Told them this repeatedly and expected them to write it down in a test in order to get marks.

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