Use This Paradox To Help You Form a Productive New Habit

Growing heap habit

“It doesn’t really matter if I skip my personal training session today.  It is only one time.”

“I don’t feel like writing an article today.  It won’t matter if I take today off.”

“Ah, one chocolate chip cookie won’t kill me.”

“I can miss a project deadline this one time.”

Sound familiar?  While it may be true that taking one day off from a routine won’t make or break you, it is the individual choices we make that defines our success.  This, my friends, is the paradox of The Argument of the Growing Heap.

This paradox was first documented by the Renaissance humanist, Erasmus, in his book “The Praise of Folly” (1511). Erasmus explains The Argument of the Growing Heap:

“If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin? What if you add another?  Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.”

If you have $10, are you rich?  Certainly not.  $11, $12, $13?  No.  Eventually, you will call yourself rich.  Therefore, one dollar truly does make a difference.

This certainly speaks to the importance of positive habits.

Yesterday, I used this paradox to motivate myself to get to a personal training session.   The set up was perfect for me to skip the workout: I wasn’t technically scheduled to go for the workout but through a quirk a time slot became available and was offered to me.  I wasn’t obligated to go.

To compound the matter, we lost electricity due to the east coast “bomb” storm.  The house was cold.  I was nestled in bed under a down comforter reading a really good book (The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully).

If there was ever a time to skip a workout, this was it!

Thanks to my awareness of the paradox of The Argument of the Growing Heap, I crawled out of bed and went to the gym.  The workout was intense.  I felt a sense of pride when I was done because I was able to overcome the instant gratification of lying in bed in favor of exercising.

My “heap” got a little bigger today.

What habit are you trying to form?  Whatever it is, use The Argument of the Growing Heap to motivate you to make the right choice today and every day hereafter.



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