Struggling to Take Action Towards Your Dreams? Maybe Activation Energy Can Help!

Have you ever tried to start to take action towards your dreams or start a new habit? Then found out after a day of two you needed more than just willpower? Is it time to stop struggling to take action towards your dreams? Well – maybe you needed what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “activation energy”.


What Gets in the Way of Taking Action?

Mmmm – where to start? There is so much that can get in the way of taking action towards your dreams. Anything from overthinking, self-doubt, perfectionism, people-pleasing, hesitancy, overcommitment to lack of confidence.I refer to these aspects as draining habits or resistance.

So how can we start to take action? One way is through working with activation energy.


What is Activation Energy?

According to Britannica, activation energy is –

“the minimum amount of energy that is required to activate atoms or molecules to a condition in which they can undergo chemical transformation or physical transport.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi transferred this principal to human beings in his work around flow. As human being, we experience flow when there is high-challenge and high-skill (see diagram here). In the flow research, it was found that –

“each of the flow-producing activities requires an initial investment of attention be it begins to feel enjoyable. One needs such disposable “activation energy” to enjoy complex activities. If a person is too tired, anxious or lack the discipline tp overcome the initial obstacles, he or sjhe will have to settle for something that is less enjoyable, is more accessible.” (p.65).


Changing Habits – What to Focus On

One of the main challenges we have when changing habits is knowing how to start. However using the understanding of activation energy, we can decrease the activation energy we need to focus on the new habit and increase it to do with the draining habit or one we are changing. So let’s use an example.

Developing the New Habit of Moving in the Morning

Have you ever wanted to start moving in the morning? Yes you start with good intentions the night before, however the alarm goes off and then you press snooze and then fall back to sleep? So with this example – the new habit is moving in the morning to replace the old habit of turning the alarm off and then going back to sleep.  And yes, this is a real example of what I did.

Before I went to bed the night before, I got my clothes out and put them on the end of the bed. Then I placed my alarm outside of my room (just so I could still hear it and where I needed to get out of bed to turn it off). And yes this worked for me.

Effectively what I did was lower the effort of creating the new habit (moving in the morning) and then increasing the effort associated with sleeping in.


The Power of Activation Energy

Do you think activation energy could be useful in your life? If so, you could –

  • Think of a change or habit you want to start. Then ask, what do you need to do to decrease the activation energy?
  • Think of a change or habit you have but want to stop. What could you do to increase the activation energy?


Over to You…

I hope this post has helped you to understand activation energy and how you can use to stop struggling and take action towards your dreams. Feel free to share your insights or questions below and remember –

“Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless.” ~ Mary Kay Ash

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heartwhy not join our Toolkit?


Reference –

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement in Everyday Life . New York, NY: Hatchette Book Group.

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