Not all actions create equal outcomes.
Maximizing your time and effort comes down to identifying the activities that generate the largest returns.
Positive feedback loops are the foundation for achieving this.
Once you've identified them, invest as much time and energy as possible into taking the right actions. The rewards will compound over time, and you'll achieve your goals more efficiently than ever before.
In this article, we'll explore the concept of positive feedback loops and how they can help you identify high-leverage activities.
What is a Positive Feedback Loop?
"If you understand compound interest, you basically understand the universe." - Robert Breault
A positive feedback loop is a system that routes its outputs back into inputs.
This creates a chain reaction of events that build upon itself. Each iteration amplifies the results of the previous one, providing you with compounding results over time.
Positive feedback loops are powerful because they demonstrate how small, consistent actions can create exponential results. When you invest time into these activities, you're tapping into a powerful system—the domino effect is undeniable.
To fully understand this concept and apply it to your life, it's important to make a distinction between positive and negative feedback loops.
Positive and Negative Feedback Loops
There are two categories of feedback loops that exist: positive and negative.
We often confuse the word "positive" with "good" and "negative" with "bad." But in systems theory, they actually have different meanings:
- A positive feedback loop accelerates change, driving the system away from its current state and toward something new. A classic example is compound interest.
- A negative feedback loop keeps a system in balance and minimizes fluctuations. A thermostat does this, as it's constantly bringing the room's temperature back to the desired set point.
In essence, positive feedback loops accelerate change while negative feedback loops keep systems in balance.
Since we're looking to maximize our time and effort, we'll focus on utilizing positive feedback loops to produce exponential results.
Are Your Results Moving in an Upward or Downward Spiral?
Now you know that positive feedback loops aren't necessarily "good" or "beneficial," they simply amplify outcomes. So, it's important to make sure you're amplifying results in the right direction.
You can use positive feedback loops to create an upward spiral (creating the results you want), or a downward spiral (creating the results you don't want). Here are a few examples of both.
Upward spiral examples:
- The more deep work you do, the more value you create. This provides you with more work satisfaction, compensation, and opportunity. As a result, you're eager to keep doing deep work.
- One team member is optimistic. This puts others in a positive mood, leading to more people feeling happy and optimistic.
- A clean diet and exercise give you more energy. This reinforces an optimistic attitude towards a healthy lifestyle, motivating you to continue eating nutritious food and exercising.
Downward spiral examples:
- A perfectionist is afraid of making mistakes and receiving criticism, which leads to inaction. As this person keeps trying to avoid failure, they continue the cycle of perfectionism and procrastination.
- When your debt increases, it becomes harder to keep up with payments. This leads to missed payments, a lower credit score, and higher amounts owed.
- Eating junk food and not exercising leads to lower energy. This reinforces a poor self-image and continues the cycle of unhealthy lifestyle decisions.
As you can see, your results can be moving in an upward or downward spiral.
If you want to be successful, make sure you're using positive feedback loops that amplify the outcomes you want.
How to Use Positive Feedback Loops to Maximize Your Time and Effort
So how do you use positive feedback loops to create an upward spiral? Here are four steps:
Step 1: Choose an area of your life where you want to see results.
Start by finding an area in your life where you want to see results.
This could be your health, wealth, relationships, or a passion project. Once you've identified the area you want to experience results in, you'll be motivated to maximize your time and effort there.
Step 2: Identify the positive feedback loops that already exist, if any.
Now that you know what area to focus on, it's time to identify the feedback loops that already exist.
Are you currently moving in an upward or downward spiral? Or are you in a state of inertia?
Be honest with yourself. Self-awareness will help you identify if you need to amplify or tweak an existing feedback loop, or if you need to implement a new one.
Step 3: Find leverage by identifying outputs that feed back into inputs.
Leverage is key when you want to make the most of your time and effort.
In the context of your goals, you'll want to discover which outputs feed back into the system's inputs. Remember the diagram below:
For example, if you're trying to improve your health, eating nutritious food (input) results in more energy (output). Vibrant energy is an output that not only improves your health, but also motivates you to continue living a healthy lifestyle (feeding back into the overall system). So, figuring out how to optimize your energy levels is a powerful leverage point.
Step 4: Maximize your time and take action.
Once you've found leverage, it's time to focus on ways to maximize your time. One way to do this is to focus on deep work.
Deep work is a term coined by Cal Newport that refers to the ability to focus on a cognitively demanding task without distractions.
Focus is key to making positive feedback loops work. Concentrate on the leverage points that create an upward spiral, then watch how your results amplify over time.
Positive feedback loops are a powerful tool that can help you achieve the results you want in life. By focusing on building an upward spiral, you can maximize your time and effort to create exponential change. Be self-aware, identify areas of opportunity, and find leverage points to get the most out of your positive feedback loops. With a little bit of effort, you can use these loops to create success in any area of your life.
Want to learn more on how to gain leverage on yourself and finally accomplish your goals? Check out our article HERE.