What is the snake effect, and why should you watch out for it?

Have you ever noticed that you don’t age? Not visibly, it happens slowly, especially as you reach adulthood, where changes occur so gradually that they become imperceivable. Then, one day you wake up and are much older than you remember.

In The Science and Technology of Growing Young, Sergey Young describes aging as:

“… the master of your development, and of your decline – that slow, almost imperceivable, and then, somehow, seemingly very rapid progression toward death.”

Sergey Young

I refer to this slow progression leading to a rapid change as the snake effect. It is what happens when habits compound and change becomes exponential. In terms of aging, the results tend to be negative as we let bad habits take root. However, as I will explain later, the snake effect can also be positive.

Let’s get visual. Imagine you are an observer in the planes of Africa, watching a python slither toward a gazelle. The gazelle could easily escape the slowly moving snake, but it waits. Whether hungry or thirsty, the gazelle has a reason to stay put.

The snake inches its way forward. The gazelle sees it approaching but keeps believing it has time to run away. Suddenly, the snake leaps toward the gazelle, wrapping its long body around it and enjoys an easy dinner. The gazelle could have decided to run at any point. But hesitating, turned it into a meal. 

Hopefully, your habits won’t jump on you and start eating you, but they can still fall prey to the snake effect. Still, depending on the habit, they can be a detriment to your longevity if you are not mindful.

“People do not decide their futures; they decide their habits, and their habits decide their futures.”

F. M. Alexander

The solution

You must be mindful and disciplined to avoid the snake effect’s negative side. Mindfulness will show you the impact of your habits. Meanwhile, discipline will allow you to align your path with your priorities.

As I said, all habits compound over time. Be sure you are collecting good ones that will pay dividends rather than bad ones that will accumulate interest. 

Be mindful of your bad habits and work to eliminate them as they arise. Simultaneously, be grateful for your good habits and remember their benefits. 

Be the snake

When you become the snake, you are the one that gets to feast after a dedicated effort. An example of this is learning a language which is the pinnacle of tasks requiring discipline. Developing even a moderate understanding of a new language requires hours of dedicated effort.

As you study, your vocabulary and grammar grow. As your competence increases, you start to understand more. Eventually, you reach a level where you can have a conversation in that language – albeit a simple one at first. 

After so many hours of practice, this simple conversation is motivating. Even more so if you are immersed in that language and can finally understand those around you. Discipline pays its dividends. 

Mindfulness helps

The snake effect is also why so many people – including myself – give up on learning languages; they don’t see progress in their incremental learning. 

When you need a stronger reason to keep learning because your circumstances have changed, you must make a decision. That decision is: to find a stronger reason to continue or start learning something new.

You should keep pursuing something even if you fail to see progress. Exponential growth starts misleadingly slow; failure to see progress means your snake has yet to take that jump – keep waiting. 

Giving up should be an active decision because your goal has changed. In the wise words of Napolean Hill: 

“Successful people make decisions quickly … and change them very slowly …”

Napolean Hill

The reality of improvements is that they are rarely noticeable. Arnold Schwarzenegger and David Goggins both accomplished amazing feats. But they didn’t get there after a single session at the gym; it took dedication to achieve their transformations. 

If you are looking to make a change, start small. Discipline is a muscle that must be trained. Start with a tiny habit and keep working on it. Eventually, you will become the snake and reap the benefits.

Staying focused can be challenging; I am here to make it easier. If you are looking for someone to keep you accountable and help you along your path to change, let’s connect. 

Subscribe to my newsletter below and get a free 1-hour coaching session. Let’s discuss what you want to achieve. 

working on it…
Welcome to the long longevity community.

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