The Genius Of Doing – How To Change When Change Is Hard

How to change when change is hard to do? Break the big change into small, doable steps, and then shape the path so that they can happen. Make it like gravity; inevitable.
The Genius Of Doing – How To Change Things When Change Is Hard

LONG BEFORE Nike popularized “Just Do It”, my college buddy Lance and I used to say that we collectively applied ourselves to accomplish something, we’d be a formidable team.

That’s because Lance’s first inclination was to jump up and do something, and mine was to stay put and contemplate it  — each by itself is insufficient, we thought, but together his robust action combined with my steadfast plan would be potent.

Well, I won’t speak for Lance, but all these years later, I’ve certainly maintained my proclivity. Too often “analysis paralysis” threatens to be my undoing.

(Can you relate?)

Take this blog for instance. I began it four years ago, give or take.  About three years and seven months ago, it was clear to me that to build traffic and brand, I’d have to pick some subset of “health”, like detoxing, weightlifting, yoga, Paleo diet, or some such, and write enough compelling posts about it that I’d eventually be considered an authority on the topic.

Along the way, it would have been smart to bend to the whims of “best practices”, which proffer that you should offer readers something of value in return for their email, like an ebook entitled “101 Ways to Eat A Carrot and Live Forever”.  But first you’d hafta write a series of emails automatically sent them once they “opted-in” (exchanged their email for the ebook), and that those emails would be for building authority, trust and likeability.

It wouldn’t hurt for your site to look good too, by the way.

These things I knew, and I’ve wanted to do them, but… like I said… I’ve been in my default mode of analysis paralysis.  I have delved into minute details, compared one guru’s advice with another, have modeled several scenarios… but have done nothing.

Where’s Lance when you need him?

(For the curious, he’s in Kona, Hawaii, doing stuff every day.)


Genius is Doing

I was contemplating all this whilst walking home earlier today from a local café.  Yes, I had spent two hours toying with on cup of java and working on yet another relaunch plan. [Update: I did it.]

Between strides, it occurred to me that there’s genius in the doing. Unfettered by analysis.  Simple, unadulterated doing. The next thought was,

“Hey, genius and genesis come from the same root, so I’m onto something — it makes sense that there’s genius in the doing.”

That’s because “Genesis” means something coming into being of, and “Genius” is a noun related to the Latin verb genitus, which means to bring into being, create, produce.

Thus, “genius is in the doing” can be shortened to…

“Genius is doing”.

Which brings me to Goethe.  Or Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, to be precise.  He was a German writer and politician of the 18th century.  And something inspirational he once said is on refrigerator magnets all over the world, like on mine:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now”

(Notice that “genius” word again.)

Not fitting on my refrigerator magnet is the rest of it, which is antecedent to the part shown above.

Here’s the whole kit and caboodle:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” (Source)

(Beautiful, huh?)

I first encountered this Goethe quote in high school.  Over the decades, it’s never failed to inspire me… but kicking me into action is an entirely different matter.

The thing is, if you’re really, really accustomed to living large only between the ears, then inspiration will only there happen.  The shoe leather will stay on the carpet, not the road.  And nothing will get done.

I speak from experience.

So, what to do?  How to change?

As I wrote in How To Make Tiny Habits Big, once you’ve had your epiphany, or simply a damn decent enough idea, you need to shift something in your environment, or in your daily process, to take your first baby steps toward whatever lives in your head, but resists corporeality.

Recall that ole definition of stupidity:

“Doing the same thing and expecting a different result”.

Well, the aim is to get off that track.

How To Change Things When Change Is Hard

The Heath brothers, Chip and Dan, wrote a book about behavioral change called Switch and developed three conceptual metaphors for it:

  1. Direct the Rider
  2. Motivate the Elephant
  3. Shape the Path

The “Rider” is your intellect. It wants to measure, analyze and calculate everything. I’m predominately a Rider.

The “Elephant” is emotional inertia. It’s big, likes to be comfortable and is very strong.  It doesn’t like change.

The “Path” is where you need to tread once you can sufficiently direct the rider and motivate the elephant to begin baby steps.  The focus here is to “shape” the path, because if it’s perceived to be too difficult, the Rider will apply the brakes until it figures it all out; and if it’s perceived to be too uncomfortable for the Elephant, it will lean its considerable bulk against that fragile first step and snap the leg.

(Yes, the Elephant is emotional baggage… a big footlocker of it.)

If the Rider, Elephant and Path aren’t harmonized, you’re stuck in the same ole rut of non-doing.

Keep reading Goethe to your heart’s content.  Get dewy-eyed as you imagine how amazing your life will be once you put the magnet back on the fridge and somehow magically become transformed just by having read those inspirational words.

But know that without the “doing” nothing gets done.

I know that.

So, lately I’ve been chipping away at Rider, Elephant and shaping the Path.

I tell the Rider that he’s so super smart that any of the billion different plans he’s mustered will work, but since he’s engulfed in a fog, let’s simply have my 10-year old niece choose one.

I tell the Elephant that this is going to be so easy and safe that he won’t break a sweat, and will be indulged along the Path.

Emboldened by my entreaties, my Rider and Elephant have become more quiet, thus enabling me to shape the Path because I’m endeavoring to make it easy.

I know it might not be easy the whole way. But I’ll make it so in the beginning. Until I get traction. Traction begets momentum, and momentum helps push through the tough spots.

As pertains to this blog, I’ll just give it a face-lift by buying and installing an already customized “skin”. Then, I’ll offer something simple to my readers in exchange for their emails.

Then, if that works, I’ll have the ability to engage them, and will explore with them the specific health protocols I can offer, and ask which will best serve them.

Yes, finally, there’s gonna be some doing going on around here, right Lance!

Readers, you’ll know when it happens.  You’ll look around on this site and like most of what you see.  You may even feel compelled to join the knuckleheads on my email list.

Who knows?

I don’t.

Not by thinking about it, I don’t.  But I will once I get the “genius” going, and “begin it now”, right Goethe!

P.S. I wrote a more in-depth piece about the Rider, Elephant and the Path that you can find here.

Last Updated on December 22, 2023 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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