Charlie’s inner introvert cringed when his buddy invited him to a networking event. That was three years ago. Today, Charlie begins every day during the week attending networking events all around town. What changed? How did Charlie go from dreading having to engage with strangers to ordering his entire schedule around it? Simple – without realizing it, he had employed the Just Noticeable Difference (JND) technique.

In Psychology, Just Noticeable Difference (JND) is also known as the “difference threshold.” It is the minimum amount of change required for someone to notice a difference. For Charlie, that difference looked like this – at first he was reluctant to do anything that far out of his comfort zone. But, he was desperate for business so he decided to give it a try. He’d only meant to go once, and that was one of the decisions that contributed to his success.

Had he started by planning to attend regularly, he wouldn’t have gone at all. Instead, he made a small goal – go once – so he did. He found it wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, he made a few promising connections so he decided to go again. After a few months of regular attendance, he noticed he’d had a serious pick up in business and that most if not all of his clients were coming from referrals and connections he’d made while networking.

Again, he was progressing just enough to where he noticed a difference. Because he noticed a difference, he decided to start regularly attending another networking event in addition to the one he’d already been going to. Sure enough, after a few months of regular attendance there, his client base continued to explode. He continued on this gradual progression until he found himself in the position he’s in now – a schedule built around his networking events.

Charlie stumbled into this quite by accident, as do a lot of people – but we can learn from his example and intentionally apply a JND to our own lives. Are you a couch potato who wants to run a marathon? Start with a short walk to the mailbox and see how that goes. If it goes well, maybe try walking to the end of the block and back. Don’t worry about anything other than that one simple goal in front of you. Once it’s achieved, reassess your situation and set another one.

At the start of a New Year, there are so many people who resolve to get in shape, they join a gym, and they over-do it. At the end of a week or a month, they are sore in places that they didn’t even know existed — and they give up. They took too big a step, it was a major difference, not a Just Noticeable Difference. That is a good way to know if your difference is too much — if you start encountering resistance, the step is too big — back off and take a smaller step.

The principle behind JND observes that as changes in stimulus get larger, it takes even more of a change to be detected. This enables you to slowly change your habits with the least amount of resistance – and all the while you are gaining momentum. Give it a try – it’s only a matter of time before the small snowball you send tumbling down the mountain turns into a giant boulder of success. Think through the following questions with the JND in mind:

  • What habit would you like to change / incorporate into your life?
  • What is the smallest possible step you could take toward that goal?
  • Who are the people in your corner – the ones that will support and encourage you in this step?