Use the Bright Line Rules to Better Manage Your Willpower

In the spring of 1966, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix. The police had little to say, but they suspected Miranda of kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old woman ten days earlier. The officers interrogated Miranda for two hours and was rewarded for her efforts: Miranda confessed to the rape charge and signed a confession. There was only one problem. During the interrogation, Miranda was alone, and he was never told that he was entitled to the assistance of a lawyer.

This post originally appeared on James Clear’s blog .

When it came to trial, Miranda’s written confession was used as evidence. He was quickly convicted, but his lawyer appealed because Miranda was never informed of his rights and therefore, according to his lawyer, the confession was not voluntary. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the decision, but the case was eventually referred to the US Supreme Court.

The US Supreme Court overturned Miranda ‘s decision by 5 votes to 4, because “the detainee must be clearly informed before interrogation that he has the right to remain silent and that whatever he says will be used against him. in a court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult a lawyer and have a lawyer with him during interrogation, and that if he turns out to be poor, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him. ”

The Supreme Court has just put in place a clear rule.

The power of the rules of the bright line

A rule with a bright line refers to a well-defined rule or standard. This rule has a clear interpretation and very little wiggle room. It sets a clear line between what the rule says and what it doesn’t.

Miranda’s solution is one example. If the police officer does not inform the accused in custody of his rights, the statements of the suspect are not accepted in court. Simply and easily. Clear and bright.

Most of us, myself included, would benefit from establishing brighter traits in our personal and professional lives. Let’s look at some common examples:

  • We can say that we want to check e-mail less often.
  • We can say that we want to drink in moderation.
  • We can say that we want to save more for retirement.
  • We can say that we want to eat healthier.

But what do these statements actually mean?

  • What does it mean to check your email less often? Are you going to “try to get better” and hope it works? Will you set specific days or specific times when you will be unavailable? Will you check your email on weekends? Will you only process email on your computer?
  • What is moderate drinking? Is that one drink a week? Five drinks a week? Ten drinks a week? We haven’t defined it, so how do we know if we are making progress?
  • What does it mean to save more? More is not a number. How much more? When will you save? Every month? Every salary?
  • What does a healthier diet look like every day? Does this mean that you are eating more vegetables? If so, how much more? Do you want to start by eating healthy meals once a day? Twice a day? Every meal?

These promises are easy to make to yourself, but they don’t create bright lines. Fuzzy statements make it difficult to measure progress, and what we measure we improve .

Now do we need to measure every area of ​​our lives? Of course not. But if something is important to you, then you should set a bright line for it. Consider the following alternatives:

  • I only process email from 11:00 to 18:00.
  • I enjoy a maximum of two drinks per night.
  • I am saving $ 500 a month for retirement.
  • I eat at least two types of vegetables a day.

These statements set bright lines. These statements make the steps to action clear and clear. Vague promises will never lead to straightforward results.

Using bright lines to break bad habits

The examples I’ve provided above have focused primarily on shaping new behaviors, but clear rules can be used just as effectively to break bad habits or get rid of old behaviors.

My friend Nir Eyal suggests a similar strategy, which he calls ” progressive extremism .” To explain this concept, Nir uses the example of vegetarianism. If you wanted to become a vegetarian, you could start by saying, “I don’t eat red meat.” The goal is not to change everything at once, but to take a very clear and extreme position in one small area. You are drawing a light line on this topic.

Over time, you can gradually advance your bright line and add other behaviors to it. (ie “I don’t eat red meat or fish.” And so on).

How bright lines reveal your hidden willpower

Establishing bright lines in your life can give a tremendous boost to your daily willpower.

There are two reasons why:

First, bright lines move the conversation in your head from talking about the victim to talking about empowerment. When you don’t have a clear boundary and decide not to do something, there is a tendency to say, “Oh, I can’t do it this time.” Conversely, if you have a clear bright line, you can simply say, “No thanks, I don’t.” Bright lines will help you avoid exceptions just this time. Instead, you are pursuing anew identity that you have created for yourself.

Second, by making clear decisions in your life, you retain the willpower to make other important decisions. Here’s the problem with trying to make day-to-day decisions in troubled waters: without bright lines, you have to decide every time if the situation is up to your standards. With bright lines, decisions are made in advance. This makes you less likely to suffer from decision fatigue and more likely to have willpower for work, relationships, and other health-related habits.

How to Free Your Mind and Unleash Willpower Using the Bright Line Rules | James Clear


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