Set Points

Set Points


Have you ever looked at something in your life and thought that it was an impossible challenge.  Has anyone ever told you that the way you want to do something is “not the way we do things around here?”  In both cases, you are dealing with a set point.  A set point is an established way of doing something that stops you from doing something new.  It may be a physical set point, like doing a certain physical exercise, or a psychological set point, like how you perceive yourself (I am not good at math).  Let’s examine some of our set points and figure out how we can push them or change them.


Physical Set Points


I was never good at sports.  As a child, I mostly played video games and watched TV; I was never that physical.  I remember my friends being really good at Football, and even making the paper (we didn’t have the Internet back then) with their pictures in it making an incredible play.  I was the chubby nerd who shopped in the Husky section of K-Mart.  That was my set point for a long time.  One day, I decided that I was going to join the military, and everything changed.  A couple of years later, I decided that I was going to become a SEAL, and things changed even more.  The years leading up to SEAL Training were the hardest for me, because not only did I have to train myself out of my childhood set points, but I had to teach myself new techniques like how to swim (actually a friendly female lifeguard taught me) and how to become stronger at pull-ups.  Dealing with your physical set points can be a challenge, but the rewards and benefits that you gain from changing them can, literally, be life changing.


Psychological Set Points


These set points are the most powerful ones and hardest to change.  Since you were born, you have learned ways of doing things that have programmed your set points.  Self perceptions stem from the actions and words from influential individuals early in life, and from every experience that you have had.  These experiences, actions and words are very powerful as they influence our set points; but they also influence how we can change these set points.  Every time we succeed or fail at something, we file away a code in our brains.  When we succeed at something difficult, our set points shift a little to more challenging positions.  However, if we seldom fail, our set points are never challenged and when we eventually do fail, our set points can be crushed for a long, long time.  We all have the power to change our set points, or keep them fluid, we just need to know how to do this.   Knowing that we have the power to change our set points is the first step in changing them. 


Happiness Set Points


We also have happiness set points.  From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that most of us are biologically set to be less then optimally happy.  Again, knowing this is the first step in changing our happiness set points.  By changing the types of activities that we do (more human and other focused and less material and me focused), we can affect our overall happiness despite our initial happiness set points.  In the next section, we will look at the ways that we can practically and immediately change our set points to keep them in check, or use them to our advantage.  



Changing Our Set Points


Changing our set points requires a decision, effort (planning and execution), and courage.   Set points cannot change with the will and a decision to make the change.  When we are set in our ways and happy about it, perhaps change is not required.  However, I will say that as we get older, change is actually beneficial to our brains because our dopamine receptors degrade as we age, and change will activate those receptors and keep us younger.  So if you are older, learn something new or push your current set point beyond comfort.  You will immediately reap the benefits.   


Nothing can happen without proper planning and execution.  Planning involves learning and training, and execution involves getting off your connection to the earth and moving out in the direction of your new mission!  Once you properly plan and execute your new mission, you won’t recognize our old set point or you will look at it with memorable laughter at a “that’s what I used to do.” 


The final requirement for a successful set point shift is courage.  Both the courage to overcome your fears of failure and your fears of success.  Fears of failure are pretty straightforward.  When you push your set point, you could fail.  But learning from our failure and modifying your execution for the next time is what differentiates people who ultimately succeed and people who ultimately fail.  Fear of success comes when we perceive that our set point shifts could alienate those that are used to our old set points.  However, people who do not like our new set points may not have our own best interests at heart.  Maybe it’s time for you to find new friends.  


In the end, changing your set point, depending on the set point, can be very challenging.  But with the proper application of a decision, effort, and courage, anything can be done.


Remember that failure is always a possibility, never an option.  




Look at your current set points in your life.  Do you want to change any of them?  Challenge your set points.  Even if you can’t or don’t want to change them, it’s always good to review them.  Chances are, you can change some of them.  If you can, and make the decision to change, then plan and execute the right way to go about changing the set point.  Determine what obstacles, in the form of fear, stand in your way.  Muster the courage to accept failure as a possibility but not an option and drive on.  


“Lean into it!”

Dr. N