Activation Energy and Inertia

What does it take to change?

I think often of the tensions between inertia and activation energy.

To be clear, my inner science geek is speaking:

Inertia: Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to any change in its motion (including a change in direction). In other words, it is the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at constant linear velocity, or to keep still. (from Wikipedia)

Activation Energy: In chemistry, activation energy is defined as the minimum energy that must be input to a chemical system, containing potential reactants, in order for a chemical reaction to occur.

So, making a change, whether chemical or personal or professional, requires some “energy” to be expended. Activation energy “can be thought of as the height of the potential barrier” (from Wikipedia), or how hard it will be to make and sustain some change. It is so easy to stay the same (i.e. inertia). In a quote often ascribed to Albert Einstein,  “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So, how do you overcome inertia and find sufficient activation energy to effect the impactful change that you desire? And maybe you are 100% happy with who you are, where you are, and what you are doing. Me? I seem to be on this endless quest for self-improvement. Whatever incremental change I make is never enough. Run a 5k, better train for a 10k. Knock out a half-marathon, better start training for a full. But there are some days where there is an enormous chasm between where I am and where I want to be.

So this post is about two very different programs that I have participated in that have nudged me forward on my journey. One is about leadership development and one is about fitness/nutrition. And yet to me, they are both about goal setting and becoming on the outside the person I see inside. Perhaps they will be of value to you. Both start up again in September.

Back in May of 2010 I participated in a 3 day Leadership Development Program called Leading from Within. I wrote about my experience when it was still raw. Even now, 3+ years later, I’m still pondering some of the exercises. How do I want to be remembered? What legacy do I want to leave behind? Am I showing up each day authentically? What barriers (that I create) are standing in my way? Who the heck is going to know me well enough to speak the eulogy at my funeral (do I even want a funeral?!)? Yeah, this stuff, hard stuff. Oh, and in the meanwhile, you can fix your coworker and personal relationships. Seriously. I think there are about 7 slots left for the September course in Colorado. Learn more.  Or download a registration form. If you tell Greg that I sent you I might earn a tiny commission, but that doesn’t matter. Don’t mention it. Just go. Bring your fly fishing gear. You might just have time on the river.

In my brain, life coach === fitness coach.

It’s all about goal setting, motivation, self-improvement. I started my personal fitness transformation with Body for Life back in 2004. And for at least a year, I was a Body for Life acolyte. But when you’re pondering the impact of a 4th shrimp at a cocktail party on your nutrition plan, something has got to give. And frankly, as tedious as the diet became, so did the workouts. It was an amazing program in terms of outcomes, but as a food lover, if I never see another protein shake or bar on my life menu, awesome. And 6 meals a day of specific ratios is hard to fit into a life. Sure, you can bring food everywhere, and I did, but it’s goofy, even for a geeky scientific gal. And my, apparently OCD prone, self started logging every gram of food and its nutritional composition into Excel. Not optimal, even if very effective.

And so I started searching for, and testing, other programs. There are so many. For the last few years, I’ve been loosely (and at time more strictly) following Precision Nutrition. It’s sane; it’s scientifically based and validated. I lean Paleo, but with Precision Nutrition a chick pea is not a deal breaker. Legumes are not the enemy. The nutrition plan is seamlessly merged into best practices re: behavior change and coaching. For example, you’re new. You have a zillion bad habits. You don’t have a fitness plan. Some programs, e.g. Body for Life, have you dive in fully to their 6 meals a day, mix of weights/interval cardio 6 days a week, and it might not be sustainable. Precision Nutrition eases you in or fine tunes your high end program. It starts wherever you are. But from that point, changes are incremental so they become habits. If you don’t need to think about it, it’s easy. Wake up, floss, brush. Easy. After it’s a habit. Precision Nutrition makes fitness and healthy eating as automatic and easy as flossing. Each change is introduced over days/weeks so that it becomes automatic and the person changing asks “really? That’s all you want me to do?” My friend J recently signed up for their lean eating coaching program. And at first she was stunned by how little they asked her to change during the first few weeks – add more fish oil; walk more….minor stuff. She lost 8 pounds in week one. Granted in week two this slowed to 2 pounds, but anyone who has experimented with new programs knows this is amazing progress by any measure.
Last year, I signed up for the  Precision Nutrition Certification course. Review here. In most states, by itself, this cannot be used. If you are a fitness trainer or certified nutritionist of some type this program likely counts as CEUs and can help you build your business. For me, I just wanted to delve into the black box of the program. You can find about 70% of it for free on the Precision Nutrition blog or in their other materials (cookbooks, etc.). I’m especially addicted to the Doctor Detective stories where they uncover scientifically why the recommended changes are not working.

If this is of interest, you can learn how to save $200 on the certification here: Precision Nutrition Certification Presale List. Again, this is an affiliate link. Feel free to Google the same info. It’s a great program.

Alternatively, you can try their 5 day course for fitness professionals free: Free 5-Day Course for Fitness Pros.