If/When-Then, Robert Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion Helps Me Get Stuff Done

When I set out on this little blogging adventure I was consuming a wide variety of content. Of course, since I started out as a posture blogger, I was reading posture sites, and watching posture videos, but since it started out as a hobby, I didn’t make that my sole focus.

I discovered all sorts of interesting stuff in alternative medicine, health and fitness, diet and nutrition, and more. The time was one of political earthquakes all across the globe, so in spite of my general lack of interest in it, I got sucked into political sites, too.

Along the way, I found creators across the spectrum talking about their own interests, and in doing so I discovered guys as different as Scott Adams and Mike Cernovich. I knew of Adams only as the creator of Dilbert, but learned he also wrote heavily on politics and persuasion. When I encountered Cernovich, he was a mindset coach, plugging his awful Gorilla Mindset, pivoting into journalism and politics.

Although I no longer pay much attention to either of them, unless they are inserted into my feeds by someone else, back at the time I did read them, they both offered up Robert Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion as a book of interest.

I did a little research on Cialdini, and found out that he wrote one of the seminal books on persuasion (Influence) read by both the mass market, and direct response marketers. “What the heck,” thought I, I’ll give this Pre-Suasion a look-see. I checked it out from my local library and was absolutely blown away.

It is simultaneously very well researched (159 pages out of 359 are research references) and completely accessible to the non-psychologist. It had a profound effect on me, which I suppose was inevitable in a book written by the guy who literally wrote the book on persuasion.

I originally read Pre-Suasion about 4 years ago, but the content was so important, that I changed my approach to many things in life according to principles laid out in it. I even found myself telling people about the book, it’s effect on me, and then recommended reading it.

Fast forward to this year, and I just couldn’t get it out of my head and realized I needed to give it a reread. This time, though, no library book for me. I figured, “Screw it, I’m probably going to want to reread it every year or two. So I bought it.

Now, I’m almost through my second reading. I’m going through it a lot more slowly, carefully, deliberately than the first time (I mean, there’s no library checkout return date deadline, right?) and even before finishing it, I find myself going back to earlier chapters for deeper insights into solving some problem I’m tackling.

Take today.

I’m 6 weeks into getting back in shape, and I’ve hit the doldrums. I’m rereading early chapters in the book to help me figure out ways to pre-suade myself to make sure I don’t fall off the wagon and have to start all over again. Chapter 9, The Mechanics of Pre-Suasion: Causes, Constraints and Correctives, has been particularly helpful.

One of the mechanisms if if/when-then plans. One formulation of this that is germane to my situation is this:

If/when I get my (insert required activity here) completed, then I may (insert appropriate reward here).

Let’s fill in (lunch time aerobic workout) and (watch 1 episode of Brooklyn 99). After which I get back to work having accomplished my required task, given myself the incentive reward, all fitting inside my lunch hour.

Or let’s fill in (evening meditation and yoga) and (watch NHL game recaps).

The research shows that there can be much more powerful and profound effects than this, one study got recovering junkies to complete resumes during their rehab by using this formulation. This leads me to believe that I can equally use this formulation (and more things also learned from Pre-Suasion) to help me with the two biggest problems in front of me; my depression, and preparing for, and weathering the coming financial apocalypse.

Pre-Suasion, give it a read, you won’t be disappointed.