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These are ideas I’ve been developing in my Sea Change and Fearless Training programs, as I’ve trained thousands of people to shift their habits as well as the patterns that get in the way of our meaningful work.
Here’s the problem when we try to train ourselves to change:
We set out to do something regularly — exercise, meditate, write, create something, etc.
We fail at it.
Then we fall apart. We might beat ourselves up, get discouraged, and give up.
This is a fragile, non-resilient approach. Maybe we try this half a dozen times, and eventually we think something is wrong with us.
There’s nothing wrong with us. The problem is with the fragile approach of falling apart when we fail.
Instead, I’ve been training people with the idea of anti-fragility built into our training system.
Anti-Fragility, in Short
The idea of anti-fragility comes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Black Swan: the basic idea is that many human-made systems are fragile. Something comes to stress the system, and it falls apart. Some systems are robust or resilient, which is much better than fragile.
But even better is the idea of being anti-fragile: stress makes the system stronger.
Human systems are anti-fragile — when we exercise, we’re stressing the system, and after we recover, we’re stronger and better able to handle that stress. Bones get denser with impact. Lots of natural systems have anti-fragile mechanisms built in.
We can make human-made systems more anti-fragile by designing ways that stress will make the system better able to handle stress. Failure helps the system get stronger.
Let’s look at how to apply this idea into our training — any kind of learning, habit formation, physical or mental training, anything where we’re trying to improve something.
Key ideas for Anti-Fragility
Before we get into specifics for training systems, let’s look at some key ideas I’ve found to be useful:
Expect stress, failures, crashes.
Design the training system to not only be resilient, but to get stronger with stresses & failure.
Start by removing fragility from the system. Examples: smoking, debt, having too many possessions, or being super hurt or pissed when you get criticism or failure.
Take small risks often. Small experiments designed to help us learn from failure. Example: every day, I try to get better at doing hard work, with each day being a mini-experiment. I fail often, which means I learn often.
Embrace uncertainty, risk, failure, discomfort. These become things to help you grow, rather than things to be avoided or complain about, or things that cause you to collapse entirely. Embrace variability, noise, tension.
The attitude is to always learn & get better from failure. Don’t bemoan it, embrace it and learn, improve, grow stronger. Love error. When your system gets stressed, how will it respond to get stronger?
Intentionally inject stress into your life – do sprints, lift heavy weights, fast, take cold showers, take on challenges, experiments and adventures.
Now let’s apply this to our training systems.
Anti-Fragile Training Systems
Some ideas to use in training:
Do small experiments, designed to learn from failure. Small is good. Big and bulky leads to failure when big stressors happen. Instead, small means you’re lean, easily adaptable, mobile, can shift easily. For training, this will mainly apply to how we practice — we can intentionally do small experiments, small training sessions, instead of massive projects or very long sessions. Small experiments, such as training in unprocrastination by doing daily training experiments. Learn from each day’s experiment, and get better and better with time.
Adopt the attitude of embracing uncertainty, risk, failure, discomfort. Instead of being afraid of these and avoiding them, let ourselves push into them and get better and better at dealing with them each time we practice. In this way, every failure, every moment of uncertainty or discomfort … becomes a wonderful opportunity to practice and get better, something to celebrate!
Do weekly reviews — use them to learn, adjust & continually improve. Each daily experiment should be logged — how did you do that day, what went well, what got in the way, what can you learn & adjust going forward. Then take a little time to review each week, and use the data to learn and adjust. This is the kind of structure we need to use the stress in our lives to grow.
Use accountability & support. Report every day or every week to people, so that they can support you, hold your feet to the fire, help you see your patterns that are getting in the way. Reporting to other people helps us to learn from our mistakes and failures. Having a group support you also gives you a net that you can fall back on when you fall, so that you don’t have to completely collapse.
Build in redundancy. If you have a single point of failure, it’s easy to collapse when things go wrong. For training, I recommend having multiple ways to be held accountable, multiple reminders and checkins/reviews. These might seem a little tedious until we realize they are making us more likely to stick to our training.
Reduce things that make you more fragile. Smoking makes you more fragile, as does unhealthy eating. What makes our training more fragile? Complaining, resentment, and similar negative thinking habits. While we might not be able to avoid these completely, we’re going to try to reduce them, to improve our overall resilience and antifragility.
Intentionally inject stress into your life. We don’t want to only put ourselves in comfort, because it trains us to be fragile. But too much stress & pain can cause us to be destroyed (burnout, depression, etc.). So we want to give ourselves just enough stress that we can handle and grow from it. Regularly. So training is to put ourselves into uncertainty & discomfort regularly, when we have the capacity to handle it, and then let it help us grow. Stress, recover, grow.
Be kind to yourself — but overcome your tendencies. Beating yourself up doesn’t help. It only makes you more fragile. It is tremendously helpful to learn to be compassionate with yourself. That said, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook. So it helps to bind yourself, when you’re in your best frame of mind, in a commitment contract. Tell people, “If I don’t meditate every day this week, I owe you $100.” Or something like that; it doesn’t have to be money. Don’t let yourself make the training or challenge easier for anything in the coming week — you can only change your training for days that are further than a week.
See opportunities in everything. It’s an anti-fragile idea to take advantage of opportunities. When good opportunities arise, be able to take advantage of them. For training, it’s good to learn to see opportunities to practice in everything, and then take advantage of those practice opportunities as much as we can.
Questions to Ask Ourselves
With those things built into the system, it’s good to ask ourselves questions such as:
What are the things that are making me (or my business) fragile? Smoking, unhealthy foods, negative thinking, inability to receive feedback, too much debt, too many possessions, etc.
What is mission-critical that would cause me to fail if it failed? How can I create redundancy there — have 2 of them? Can I create a Plan A, B and C?
What kind of support network can I create (or do I have) that can help me recover quickly when a stressful event or failure happens?
How can I optimize for the worst case instead of the best? Not try to be in comfort all the time?
How can I see an opportunity in every difficulty?
I highly encourage you to build these ideas into whatever training and self-improvement efforts you’re taking on!
Some of the links below are affiliate links which means I may earn a commission if you make a purchase at no cost to you. This post is not sponsored.
A few weeks ago, a friend told me she’d found a book called 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week by Tiffany Shlain. The title intrigued me and luckily it was available to download from my library, so I started it that night and finished reading it the next day.
As I was reading the book on Sunday, I decided I was going to try a weekly digital detox starting that day and then every Sunday for a month.
I’m already pretty conscious with my phone usage (my phone is always on do not disturb mode with time limits for social media apps), but I’d never thought to take a full day away from my digital devices.
When you’re constantly plugged-in to apps and devices designed to steal your attention (Netflix has said their main competitor is sleep), you start to lose track of reality and your identity outside of technology.
I thought this was the perfect experiment to see if it would have a positive effect on my mindset. After implementing weekly digital detoxes every Sunday for a month, I’m sharing the lessons I’ve learned and how I made it work without getting bored.
The book 24/6 is based on Tiffany Shlain’s experience of taking one day a week off from technology. Inspired by her Jewish heritage, Shlain calls them “Technology Shabbats”. She combines a screen-free twenty-four hours with Shabbat rituals like a special Friday-night meal with family and friends.
Her family (kids included) goes screen-free from Friday night to Saturday night and limits all smart technology like cell phones. They even use a landline to make phone calls and a record player to listen to music (I knew I wasn’t going to implement these things with my experiment).
What most inspired me to try this idea out was the author’s description of her Saturday routine. Here’s what her family’s Tech Shabbat’s look like (I’ll share mine later):
Friday afternoon – pick up fresh fruit and flowers from the farmers market
Friday night – host friends for dinner (make the same meal every Friday to take out the guesswork)
Saturday morning – journal, read
Saturday afternoon – music (listening and playing), cooking, excursions to the library, bike ride, basketball, yoga, scheduled activities, errands, etc.
The Benefits of a Digital Detox
Why would you want to go tech-free once a week? Here are some key benefits to this weekly practice:
More time for hobbies
Unplugging gives us time to grow and learn new skills. Often we avoid doing this because we think we don’t have enough time, but really we don’t have the attention span to even try.
Shlain talks about her own struggle with impatience and how unplugging helps her to practice patience. When we practice unplugging, we can develop our character strengths and work on improving our weaknesses.
When we unplug, we’re able to give our attention more generously to the people around us. It also gives us the opportunity to connect more deeply with ourselves without distraction or comparison.
“By giving you a complete day off each week from screens, from obligations, from being available, letting you reflect and connect, tech Shabbat becomes the ultimate technology to make you the most creative, present, and productive version of yourself.”
My Digital Detox Routine
My usual Sunday routine would involve watching YouTube for hours, scrolling through social media, and browsing the internet aimlessly. Though I didn’t follow the detox as intensely as Shlain does, here are some rules I set for myself:
No checking email
No social media
Only use phone for texts or calls
No TV during the day (one or two episodes at night was okay)
Here’s a monthly recap of what my Sunday schedule looked like:
Started the 24/6 book on Saturday night and decided I wanted to try it the next day
Went for a walk in the morning
Read for most of the day
Did a family dinner over Facetime
Watched an episode of Tiger King
One thing I noticed is that I had a hard time falling asleep. I was expecting the best sleep of my life, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
Spent too long on Pinterest + Amazon trying to find a kitchen corner shelf
Cleaned my apartment
Family FaceTime dinner
Watched an episode of Into the Night on Netflix (such a good show!)
Went to bed at 10:30
I definitely broke my detox this day by spending way too long on Pinterest and Amazon on my phone. I was feeling inspired to find a corner shelf for my kitchen and that led to overthinking which one to buy. That night, I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep until 5.
Visited my mom for Mother’s day with my sister (we sat 6-feet away from each other on the grass)
Cleaned my apartment
Worked out (I used my iPad to follow a workout)
Visited my boyfriend’s mom for Mother’s day (again, we sat 6-feet away from each other outside)
Watched one episode of Girls
I felt tempted to go on social media this day, but spending time with family (at a distance, of course) kept me occupied. Looking back, I could have probably created my own workout without needing to follow a video. I didn’t have any issues falling or staying asleep this night.
After a month of this challenge, here are some key things I’ve learned or experienced from unplugging once a week:
It gives me something to look forward to
Taking a day away from the online world feels like an escape and an excuse to get away from it all. I knew on Sundays that my day would be calm and relaxing, and that made it something to look forward to every week.
I can stay occupied without technology
I’ve read more books in the past month than I have in a long time. It definitely made me realize that I can keep myself occupied without relying on technology. If you’ve ever wanted to take up a hobby or learn a language, this would be the perfect way to do it.
I’m more productive on Mondays
Since I wouldn’t stay up late on Sunday night watching Netflix or scrolling through TikTok, I woke up on Monday mornings in a good state of mind. I felt like I had more clarity and motivation to get started on my to-do list without procrastinating.
I’m more motivated to be efficient
Knowing that I couldn’t do any kind of work on Sunday made me more efficient during the week. Instead of telling myself I could do a few things on Sunday, I got them done ahead of time so I could fully embrace my tech-and-work-free Sundays.
Would you try a weekly digital detox?
Based on what I’ve learned and experienced from this monthly challenge, I definitely plan to keep doing these Sunday digital detoxes. I think I’ll even try to go the whole day without watching TV to see if that makes a difference.
I hope this post has encouraged you to try your own digital detox one day a week for 24 hours. If you want more ideas for making a digital detox work, I highly recommend the 24/6 book.
According to an article on Psych Central, positive self-love is about accepting yourself fully, treating yourself with kindness and respect, and nurturing your growth and well-being. Self-love affirmations are all about cultivating self-love and making it a priority in your daily life. By loving yourself, you increase your capacity for loving others. As you build […]