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How Your Brain Makes Quitting Porn Difficult
Episode 241st March 2020 • Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast) • Zach Spafford
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Episode 24

You are listening to the Self-Mastery Podcast, where we break through barriers holding you back from becoming who you wanna be, whether you're struggling with pornography, overeating, social media addiction, or just wanna get better at succeeding at life. This podcast is for you. Now, your host, Zach Spafford.

Hi, and welcome to the South Mastery Podcast. I'm your host, Zach Spafford. It's another beautiful Mastery Monday here. So this week we are going to talk about action bias, and when I told my wife that this is what we were gonna talk about because I wanted her on the podcast, she just said, what is that?

Which means I was unable to convince her that she wanted to be on the podcast this week. . So action bias is a really, really simple concept that has a lot of implications in our day-to-day lives, and this is why being aware of it will help us become better at sometimes ignoring it and saying, you know what?

I don't need to do anything in this particular situation. So let's talk about action bias. So in general, action bias is. Basically people acting in order to gain some sense of control or even to eliminate a problem. The idea of doing something is better than doing nothing or others expect me to do something.

So these two things that run a lot of the reasons why we do things are sometimes not necessarily the best thing to do. . So we see this in business where we begin to, look for solutions where we have not even really fully developed. What the problem is, when I worked at Farmers, we were really good at doing this.

We would hold a meeting and in fact there was one particular meeting that just bothered me as a, as an employee cuz it was essentially a waste of everyone's time. , my boss had me put together with some of my teammates a huge report on how we could put on more of a particular type of agent.

And as I dug deeper and deeper into this, I realized that basically my boss was asking me to create something just to show his boss. That we were doing something, even though as I looked at it, we all knew we didn't have the capital expenditure to put this type of agent on. We didn't have the infrastructure in place to support this type of agent.

We had all of these other pieces of the puzzle that simply were not going to be available to us and that we knew were not gonna be available to us because they simply were not available through the budgetary process that we had to deal with. And. We were really just creating something so that my boss could send something to his boss that said we're doing something.

This incidentally was the moment that I knew that I wanted to leave my corporate job. I had spent essentially hours of my work week creating this project and then. . I spent another 13 hours over the next two business days sitting and listening to this proposal, presenting this proposal, and then discussing this proposal that I knew was absolutely going nowhere.

It had no basis in fact and basis in reality, and it was simply just, Again, me doing something so that my boss could look good to his boss, that kind of, Hey, let's do something for the sake of doing something. That's what we're talking about when we talk about action bias. And in this particular instance, it made it so that I looked very hard at how I could leave the corporate world and run my own business, and that's why I became an insurance agent for a long time.

That's that action bias. It's that idea that doing something. Is better than doing absolutely nothing, even though doing something might just spend your resources and move you away from the real solution in the long run. When it comes to our personal behavior in particular, when it comes to buffering, there are essentially two basic things that we engage in.

One is we give into the urge, whatever that urge is. And we often use justification, oh, this is gonna be the last time, or this is going to never happen again after this one time. So we use justifications to engage in the buffer, or we simply think, you know what, if I don't give into this, it's not gonna go away.

It's just gonna keep coming. So I'm just gonna do it now when I've got some time. And whatever the consequences are, I'm gonna deal with them, but I'm gonna do it so I don't have to deal with this later. Problem with that is it is. Always comes back. We actually reinforce the urge by doing that. The other thing that we do when we engage in action bias in this particular type of action bias, the doing something is better than nothing type, is we go and we try and distract ourselves.

We try to keep ourselves busy by. Instead of engaging with the urge, we go, oh, I'm gonna go on a run, or I'm going to go work some more. Or, I'm gonna do something that is gonna distract me in the moment from this urge. But that isn't necessarily dealing with the urge for the long run. It's not disengaging from the urge behavior.

The other reason that we engage in action bias is others expect you to do something. So there's a really interesting study about soccer goalies who jump either to the left or to the right, when statistically they should stay in the middle of the goal. And the reason they do this, Is because they believe that other people think that they should do something.

Standing there in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions of people watching on tv, or even if it's just your local soccer game with nobody really watching except for your spouse or some random people that like to watch soccer that much, and. , you've got this goal kick and I'm not really super familiar with soccer, so I'm probably gonna screw this up, so please don't get mad at me.

But you've got this opportunity. It's the, it's a kicker versus the goalie and. Instead of just staying put and waiting and seeing what happens, goalies tend to jump to one side or to the other, like something like 80% of the time they'll move. When statistically speaking, they should just stand there in the middle and wait for the ball to come to them.

This idea that others expect you to do something, Is pretty powerful when it comes to trying to deal with especially addictive behaviors. A spouse will often say, you need to deal with this. You need to fix this. You need to get through this, and that can lead to that white knuckling. It's a, which is a form of action where we.

Exert extraordinary effort to keep our urges and our impulses at bay. Others expect us to just do it, or in this, in the case of like pornography use or overeating or whatever, they expect us to not do it. And the action that you engage in here is fighting the urge. You're trying to hold it at bay.

You're trying to push a boulder up an infinitely tall hill, and you might be able to push it for a little while, but, Eventually that boulder's coming down. There's gravity in life, right? And so those two opportunities where, yeah, you might want to engage in some action, but there's really an alternative.

There's a really important alternative, and this is one of the things that I teach my clients is this particular alternative. And before I tell you how the alternative works, I want you to. I want you to cast your mind off to a guy named David Attenborough. He narrates wildlife films for the bbc.

He narrates one that I think is particularly interesting and it really illustrates the point of this third, this alternative to action. If you've never seen this is David Attenborough narrating, where an iguana is getting chased by like a whole bunch of snakes. It's crazy. This iguana shows up in this pit and I, it's this gravel pit and you see.

Nothing except for the iguana and one snake. And then as that snake approaches the iguana, all of a sudden the iguana just takes off like lightning and hundreds. I swear hundreds of snakes come out of the woodwork to eat this iguana. And they are jumping at it and they, at one point they capture it and it's like all balled up in this snake ball and they're trying to eat it.

And you listen to David Attenborough and he narrates, he very, he says very little, but everything he says is completely chill. And by the end, this iguana has run a marathon, has escaped, like I said, a hundred snakes. It seems like some of them literally had him in its grasp. And all David Attenborough says at the end is a near miraculous escape.

And he says it almost in that same tone, he just says, A near miraculous escape, and that's it. That's essentially that third option. It's allowing the urge, observing the urge, not putting any real energy into it, but just watching it and letting it be there, and narrating it in your brain and saying, oh, this is what's happening.

This is how it's happening, this is why it's happening. And just sit there and watch and do absolutely nothing. , you just observe your feelings, you observe your thoughts, you observe the urge, all the while withholding action, which is pretty hard to do. All right, so that's the idea. It's the idea of taking this action bias that we all have this thing that every single one of us tries to do, where we're saying, I've gotta accomplish something today.

I've gotta go forward, I've gotta move, I've gotta move, I've gotta move. And taking a step back and sitting there and actually feeling your feelings. observing the urge, feel the urge, but don't necessarily do anything about it. It's extraordinarily difficult. I can guarantee you that you've probably never consciously done it, but when you can use it as a skill to set aside whatever urges you're dealing with, whether it be overeating or pornography or alcohol or whatever you deal with doing nothing in this particular instance.

has powerful ramifications. It allows you so much freedom because at the end of the day, you don't have to do anything. You can just let it exist and it costs you nothing. Whereas action might be the thing that costs you your dignity or your, your marriage or whatever it is that it costs you.

Action may be the problem. In this particular instance. All right folks. This has been a great Mastery Monday here on the Self Mastery Podcast. I always love doing this with you guys. Maybe one of these times we'll get Darcy to come back on the podcast. She, like I said, she really was like I don't get this one.

I'm gonna leave that one to you. But if you feel like you could use some help getting unstuck, if you could use some help. Implementing some of the techniques that we talk about here on the podcast. Go to my website, set up a mini session there, and I would love to have a conversation with you. I'd love to help you begin the process of getting into coaching and helping you become the best person that you can be.

Thanks again for listening, and we'll talk to you next week. Hey, thanks for listening to the Self Mastery Podcast. Every day I get requests from people who are looking to change something in their life. If that is you, if you need help overcoming your addictive behavior like pornography use, sign up for free mini session at That's I'll put a link in show notes for you to follow. Also, it would mean the world to me if you were to leave a review for us. Wherever you get your podcast, it'll go a long way to helping others find us. Thanks again.