And then a second thought popped into his head and that thought was: what would happen if I did this for the rest of my life. Rather than thinking what if I did this for like 30 days or what if I did this for a year.
The question that really seized him was what would happen if I did this for the rest of my life. And as soon as he had that thought happening, sitting there laying in his bed and all of a sudden he has like this vision, this picture in his mind of himself in his nineties, totally vibrant, totally healthy. He sees himself with his kids, his grandkids, and at that moment he just makes the shift.
From that moment he saw what was possible and so he just committed to it. This was over a year ago and Elco has not touched any bad food. Literally he’s one of the healthiest people I know. Hasn’t touched any bad food since then. He lives under the mantra: 100% commitment is easier than 98% commitment. That’s actually a quote from Harvard Business professor Clayton Christensen.
But that idea is also actually backed by a lot of very interesting science in psychology. So again the quote is: 100% is easier than 98%. And the reason why this is so important is because if you’re only 98% committed to something, what that means is that you’re not actually truly committed. You’re not actually fully there. You haven’t actually made the decision.
And if you haven’t made a decision about something, what that means is that you’re not actually sure what you’re going to do. If Elco was only 98% committed and he was in an environment where his favorite dessert was served, then he would have to play a tug of war in his mind about what he was going to do: Do I eat it this time? Do I not eat it?
And that… right there, that mental tug-of-war is called decision fatigue. Basically the idea of decision fatigue is… it’s another word for willpower. But it means you haven’t yet made a choice and you’re not actually sure what you’re going to do. And because you’re not sure what you’re going to do, often the situation wins.
That’s one of the most consistent things that’s found in social psychology, is that generally people are the byproduct of their situation. And the reason for that is because people are not decided.
Michael Jordan actually had a very powerful quote. Michael Jordan said: “Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.”
And kind of the Latin root of the word decision means that once you make a decision you have to actually cut off alternative options.
And so because Elco made a 100% commitment rather than a 98% commitment and he also shifted his identity by asking himself: can I… he didn’t ask himself the question: could I do this for the next 30 days? Because if you think about it, if you want to do something for 30 days, then you definitely haven’t changed how you see yourself.
You’re basically saying I think I can do this for about 30 days but then once that 30 days is over or that year is over I’m going to go right back to doing what I was. But maybe then I’ll have a little bit more control.
That’s not what happened to Tom Hartman. That’s not what happened to Elco. And as a result, those two people, they made a fundamental… a permanent shift and because of that permanent shift their behavior just went in line.
I actually told the story of Elco to my friend, his name is Nate Lambert. He was actually one of my professors. And Nate has also struggled with his weight his entire life.
And Nate and I were doing a one-year sugar-free fast because Nate wanted to go sugar-free. Again he’d struggled with his weight his whole life and I knew that it’s a lot easier for me to do something if someone like him is already doing it. He’s a very motivated individual.
But it’s also easier to do something like that in twos. But after hearing Elco story I talked to Nate and I said, “Nate, why would you do something for a year for someone like you who knows that this is going to be something that’s going to potentially plague you for the rest of your life.” He’s like 38 years old. He struggled with this his whole life. I said “Why would you just do this for a year? What’s going to happen a year from now?”
And I told him about the idea of 100% commitment is easier than 98% commitment, and the difference between decision and decision fatigue. Decision is the opposite of decision fatigue. Once you’ve actually made the decision you no longer have to play the mental tug-of-war. For example, if you make a decision about when you’re going to wake up the next day, you don’t push the snooze button.
If you haven’t made the decision the night before, then when the alarm goes off you’re not really sure what you’re going to do. Willpower often does not work.
And so because of that epiphany, that idea, Nate just sat with his wife, he made a list of the pros and cons of going refined sugar free for the rest of his life. He asked himself the question: what would happen if I did this for the rest of his life? What would happen if I did this for the rest of my life?