Category Archives: Words of Wisdown

Have You Had Your Heart Attack Yet?

Have You Had Your Heart Attack Yet?

Charlie Sims

I was away from my toothbrush one morning during a camp out with a few of my buddies. My mouth tasted like sleep, and I was kicking myself for being in such a hurry trying to leave the day before. But we had breakfast, drank some coffee, and started piddling with the fire so I soon forgot about the fact that I hadn’t brushed my teeth. In fact, I didn’t think about it again until I got home later that evening.

Surprisingly, contrary to what my dentist and mother always told me; forgetting to brush my teeth didn’t result in a cavity. Maybe I dodged a bullet, or maybe it was something else.

Are you familiar with the idea of a lagging indicator?

Some things have immediate consequences and tend to render immediate behavior changes. If I touch a hot stove, my body will reflexively respond even before it registers with my mind. Whoa!!! Bad idea. Don’t do it.

The immediacy of many of these consequences are motivating enough for us to permanently alter our behavior. The association of negative or positive feedback is so linked to the experience that Pavlov’s Dog comes to mind.

This is where things get complicated. Often times, we do something with a negative and catastrophic consequence, but get zero immediate feedback. Or worse, we’ll get an immediate positive response with behavior that will result in an ultimately negative consequence. This is called a Lagging Indicator.

I don’t get the cavity immediately after forgetting to brush my teeth.
I don’t get lung cancer after my first cigarette.
My car didn’t break down immediately after the “Check Engine” light came on.
I don’t get fat after sitting on the couch for a day.
I don’t have a heart attack after my first doughnut.

But if I keep it up, I will.

Maybe you’re a special case, maybe you just dodged the bullet, or maybe it just hasn’t hit yet.

Sometimes the consequences are immediate, other times they don’t show up for months or years after the fact. By then, it may be too late. We’ve seen enough data to conclude a clear association between certain behaviors and their consequences.

What if the immediate feedback is unpleasant, but the ultimate consequence (read: payoff) is a jackpot?

I don’t get a six pack immediately after eating my first veggie and doing a sit-up.
I don’t get strong immediately after doing one squat.
I don’t get fit after one workout

But if I keep it up, I will.