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Should You Target the Minimum? | Scott H Young

When to Target the Average

Focusing on the average makes sense when you're hoping to sustain something, even if it is not always a perfectly easy and consistent output.

It works when you are already putting in a bit of effort, but want to improve that effort over the long-term.

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Should You Target the Minimum? | Scott H Young

Should You Target the Minimum? | Scott H Young

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2019/02/13/min-avg-max/

scotthyoung.com

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Key Ideas

Ways to improve your life

There are a few different ways you can go about setting a goal or creating a new habit.

  • Target the minimum output. You focus on always doing at least a little bit so that over time, you do enough to make it count.
  • Target the average output. You focus on setting a goal you won't always achieve, but if you do, you'll end up making a big difference.
  • Target the maximum output. You invest your energy in targeting a specific, intense threshold that will pull you to a new level. 

When to Focus on the Minimum

Minimum targeting works well for establishing long-term habits.

A goal of, for instance, doing fifty push-ups every day might not be ideal for fitness, but doing something is better than doing nothing.

Another reason to focus on the minimum is that it assumes the difficulty is in starting. To start a process can often be the hardest. Then you want to set a lower threshold to make starting as easy as possible.

When to Target the Average

Focusing on the average makes sense when you're hoping to sustain something, even if it is not always a perfectly easy and consistent output.

It works when you are already putting in a bit of effort, but want to improve that effort over the long-term.

When to Focus on the Maximum

When you focus on the maximum, you can expand your potential. It requires deliberate practice with a high focus on quality, focusing on specific aspects of performance with clear feedback.

Bursts of high intensity are not sustainable long-term. Maximum-targeting works well when there is an efficiency gain for reaching higher levels. Once the burst has finished, you move to average or minimum-targeted goals.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Goal-Setting

Any goal or project will usually have these basic qualities:

  • A general ambition or motivation. (e.g. learn French)
  • A specific target. (e.g.  speak fluently)
Goals To Start In The Middle

When a goal has high uncertainty as to what level is achievable to reach within a particular time-frame, it is better to set specific targets in the middle of the process.

Plan your goals with the variables you do have: overall direction, time-frame, level of effort and strategies.

Reasons To Postpone Goal-Setting
  • Uncertain goals should be set in the middle. This will enable you to set the correct challenge level to maximize effort.
  • Some research shows that for very complex tasks, goal-setting can hinder effectiveness. This is because complex tasks are cognitively demanding in the beginning and can be frustrating because you can't perform adequately. To add on more tasks can impair your performance.

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The 2 ways you can approach your habits: Progressive and Consistent
  • Progressive. You start off easy, make it a little bit harder each time, until you eventually do very difficult things, with a lot less effort.
  • Consistent. Do the same...

Progressive habits are about managing growth, while consistent habits  are  are about managing decline. Progressive habits are less st...

Progressive habits are about managing growth, while consistent habits  are  are about managing decline. Progressive habits are less stable, but offer higher growth. Consistent habits offer lower growth, but are more stable.
When you set up a progressive habit, you’re on a path to improvement

Small, incremental adjustments in difficulty are almost certain to push your level up. The downside with progressive habits is that they are harder to sustain.

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Hitting the efficient point is important

Too little effort and you may never see results (or too slowly to notice). Too much effort and you may burnout long before any permanent progress has been made. 

Apply the Overkill Strategy to Solve Your Toughest Problems

1. Pick the goal you’re working on.

2. Choose a level of intensity that is at or near your maximum.

3. When you see results, ease back in a controlled fashion.

Speed and transfer

Consider at what speed you should try to do things in order to improve performance.
We can often learn something quickly, but without attaining a master level (like getting good at esti...

Failing to Reach an Ideal

There are two problems you can encounter when you're trying to learn something.

  1. You have a clear understanding of what you'd like to do and how you're going to do it, but you're unable to implement the approach you've chosen. Slow things down so you can pay more attention to every aspect of the problem.
  2. Speed learning is effective when you're not sure what the ideal should be and need more information to work it out. A good example of speed leading to move closer to quality is in entrepreneurial fields. Many fail because they picked the wrong problem to solve and wasted too much time trying to solve it.
Going faster vs doing it right

The balance between going faster and doing it right depends on what you're trying to achieve.

  • Faster feedback means more information to find out your key challenges and possible solutions.
  • Slower helps you focus on a strategy you've chosen, allowing you to execute it correctly.
Building habits

The basic process for building all habits is basically the same: you repeatedly condition the behavior you want, over time, until it becomes automatic.

But no habit starts out auto...

Conditioning a habit
2 main ways you can condition a habit:
  • Classical conditioning: a paired association with a trigger and a behavior. Going to the gym after you wake up each morning is this kind of habit.
  • Operant conditioning: you not only associate a trigger with a behavior, but you reward that pairing, to accelerate the habit-forming process.
The 30-Day Trial

You commit to some change for 30 days, then tou can go back to your old ways. But having spent thirty days applying a new behavior is often enough to convince you to stick with it.

Pros:

  • Can handle more significant/difficult behavior changes you might be unlikely to start with a perpetual commitment.
  • Fosters an experimental mindset, rather than assuming you already know what’s best.

Cons:

  • 30 days probably isn’t enough to actually make something a habit.
  • Without a long-term plan, many 30-day trials will revert back to the original behavior.

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A habit of compounding growth

Reading is a habit of compounding growth. When reading, you'll learn more, and you'll generate ideas and motivation for making other changes.

Reading books means you're getting more concentra...

Put the book down

The real cause of reading too few books is that you don't enjoy it enough.

Don't feel compelled to finish a book that has become boring, predictable or unhelpful. Start a new one. You can have many books through various states of completion. Some won't be finished, and that's okay. Reading less is worse than having a few go unfinished.

Build an online library

An obstacle to your reading habit is not having enough interesting books waiting to be read.

Create a list of potentially good books. If you have a Kindle or eReader, get samples of any book you might want to read — Source your wishlist from suggestions from other writers and authors. When someone recommends a book on a blog or tweet, add it to your wishlist.

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Rethinking Success

We liken success to sports, exams or battles that have winners and losers, and that have an end. However, success means having the stamina to keep going.

There might be many peop...

Patience and Idleness

The kind of patience that leads to success is not the same as waiting. Waiting has no benefits. Investing time doesn't do anything on its own.

The kind of patience needed for success is an active, self-doubting kind of patience. It's putting in enormous amounts of work, reviewing the work, questioning if it was the right work, then making adjustments and trying again.

Build-Up and Breakthroughs

Success tends to accrue in two different modes:

  • Build up: It is the steady accumulation of improvements that you can see month after month, that will eventually help you reach your destination.
  • Breakthroughs: It requires a lot of effort with no visible benefits, but every once in a while, there's an insight that unlocks your potential.

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Long-term flexible commitment

What many people fail at with long-term commitments is that they make their initial vision too rigid.

Flexible commitment can help overcome this by bringing together two pr...

Walk the Winding Path
  1. Stick to short commitments. Get good at this skill before going further.
  2. Understand your goal at different levels. The highest goal should be fairly abstract.
  3. Set a much more specific agenda of how I could fulfill this.
  4. Have periodic reviews where you can change your direction and incorporate new ideas. 
  5. Don't let your reviews interfere with the short-term process of committing.
The winding path: Goals and projects
Imagine your ambitions on two levels:
  1. A goal level, which is big-picture and abstract. It has just enough detail to inspire, but not so much that you're stuck pursuing things that don’t matter when conditions change. 
  2. Underneath that, have projects: these tend to be short-to-medium term efforts you think will help realize the larger goal.

The flexibility of the system comes once one leg of a short-term commitment has ended. This provides an opportunity for pivoting and redirecting.

Reality Check

All efforts towards correctly pursuing your own personal development must take into account reality, not how you think the world should work. The truth is reality isn’t fair and just trying your...

Success Bias

Almost no popular self-help authors are going to have had the experience of pursuing a dream (like becoming an author) and not having it eventually work out. 

Understanding reality means that you have to accept that some of your dreams won’t come true just because you work hard enough, be creative enough or go to enough seminars. Don’t base your decisions on a false model of reality.

Outcome Based Thinking

When pursuing a dream you have the underlying assumption that when you reach it you will be happy. That is false. 

Achieving goals doesn’t make you happy because achievements on their own hold no lasting emotional value. Only growth, fulfilment and passion has value.

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Self-control
Self-control

It’s your ability to resolve conflicts between your short-term desires and your long-term goals.

For example, successful self-control means sacrificing immediate pleasure (cookies a...

Why self-control matters

People who have high self-control aren’t missing out on enjoyment. Not being able to resist temptation and enjoying life are not the same things.

They tend to eat in a healthily way, exercise more, sleep better, drink less alcohol, smoke fewer cigarettes, achieve higher grades at university, have more peaceful relationships, and are more financially secure.

Biological limits to self-control

Research showed that self-control is ultimately limited by our biology. We can’t exercise effortful self-control indefinitely – the brain has to do regular maintenance to remain functional.

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