Food for Thought – Activation Energy

Recently Anna has been pushing herself super hard to help us meet some financial goals.  Long hours at home, long hours at work… and long hours putting up with me of course.  She pushes herself back and forth between kid activities, volunteering, working, managing a house, a relationship and finances… just watching her is exhausting.  One night I asked her how she was pulling it all off.  With a crazy sideways look she whispered “activation energy.”

Huh.. sounds like science… or magic… probably more science, she is a teacher after all.

Chemistry Lesson

Activation energy is the minimum required amount of energy needed to initiate a chemical reaction.  Think about vinegar and baking soda, or the spark that lights off a pile of kindling and tinder.  It is the initial small push that starts the chain reaction.

So for us activation energy is the minimum effort we need to exert in order to start a task.

Starting Points

So when can you use activation energy?  Watching Anna you can see when the activation energy is being applied.  Her body language gives it away. One minute she is standing at her computer, then suddenly she exhales, shifts her wait from one hip to the other and pushes off from her desk and turns to engage with the next task… a wild but focused gleam in her eye.

Activation energy is best applied at transition points between big changes in focus.  This is the time we are most vulnerable to triggering bad habits that eat away at our time.  In the morning I like to walk straight to the kitchen and start a pot of coffee then I drop and do my push ups, get up and do my squats… then I can sit down at my computer and write my Daily Journey post.  This sequences starts with one major moment of activation energy… the push to get out of bed.  That one point of activation energy is the trigger for my morning routine.

Activation energy can also be used to break free of bad habit traps.  The devil in our days is more then likely some form of social media.  The endless scroll to get up to date on what is happening in the world eats away at us in more ways then just using up our attention… it sucks our time, our money, our relationships, or skills… wait I’m ranting.  Social media can be useful (after all you likely found this article from my facebook group or the Mastery of Skill Page), but lets be honest we are all spending way too much time scrolling and trolling.  Activation energy to the rescue just step away or put it down.  See you are on your way.

Next Steps

The real trick to using activation energy is to be conscientious about when you need it and when you use it. Remember that exhale Anna made before she stepped away from her computer, I promise you she had just told herself to get after it and then exhaled on the exclamation point.  That physical act is a powerful thing.  You can even try saying it out load.  Why else do you think super heroes have battle cries?


Give it a shot. Try to find a point where you can use activation energy to break you from a bad habit loop or to supercharge your transition from task to task.  if you are deliberate about it you will see immediate changes in your actions and behaviors


If you want to discuss things a little further, check out our closed facebook discussion group to share your thoughts and join in the discussion. Or you can email me directly at  If you are interested in further reading check out other Food for Thought articles and learn all about the Archetypes of Skill.  You can also sign up to receive The Friday Huddle, a short weekly email from me that gives you the tips, insights, and musings that have gotten me through the week.

Live Skillfully!


Leave a Reply