Psychology

Power of Priming

Article length: 600 words

Reading time: 3-5 minutes

By now you know what it takes to obtain the fitness results you desire. A healthy diet + structured training program + hard work + consistency is the recipe for success. The hard part is making those decisions everyday. 

What if there was a simple trick you could use to make those decisions easier?

In 2008, Dan Ariely, Nina Mazar and On Amir conducted a research study on students at the Harvard School of Business. The goal was to see how priming the students would affect their likelihood of cheating. 

The students were asked to answer as many math problems in 5 minutes (AMRAP.) Afterwards, one student would be randomly selected and earn $10 for every correct answer. These are smart kids, so 5 minutes of work and the lucky winner could earn some serious dough. The final twist, the students were allowed to grade their own papers. Good ol' honor system. 

The difference comes on how the two groups were primed. We will call group A "general primed" and group B "ten commandment primed."

Before the quiz, group A was asked to write down 10 books they remembered reading in high school.

Group B was asked to recite as many of Ten Commandments from the Bible as they could. 

The results? 

Group A (general primed) scored 33 percent higher than average. Group B (ten commandment primed) scored lower than average.  

Did you guess it? Group A cheated, group B did not. All of the students had equal opportunity to cheat and the same financial incentive to do so. The only difference is how they were primed immediately prior to the quiz. The best part, the students were not aware of the priming. 

Fitness folk can learn from this study. How you prime yourself can make decisions easier or harder. Of course, some of the students who read the Ten Commandments still cheated and some of those who recited past books didn't cheat. But on average, the priming of honesty in the Ten Commandments had a major impact on their decision.  

How can this benefit you? 

What is the first thing you read in the morning? Is it a book that interest you and sparks creativity or Tweet about a reality TV show. One primes you for creative thoughts, the other is mindless nonsense. 

Who are the people in your training environment? Are they pursuing similar competitive goals as yourself or do they spend most of their gym time gossiping and dicking around? 
  
Want to be successful? Prime yourself for success with whatever the goal is. 

How I Prime

I have a simple test. If this person, thing, service, etc. helping me or hurting me in building the life I want? If it helps, add more of it. If it's hurting, remove it. 

  • Watch training of lifters I inspire to lift like before training
  • Don't communicate with people who are complainers, unless you want to be primed to complain 
  • Unfollow anyone on social media that constantly bitches
  • Use of multiple apps, my favorite is Momentum. A Google Chrome extension that prompts me of the single most important task of the day every time I open a new tab (picture below) 
  • Daily prompts via the Five-minute journal

Getting Started

Write down three ways in which you can prime yourself for success and start doing them now. Of course it can be fitness related, but this can work with any aspect in life. 


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