Be Better Than A Lab Rat

Be Better Than A Lab Rat

There’s a lot of studies out there now what we can learn from lab rats. How you can find motivation, form habits & improve yourself through studies done on lab rats.

Related: My buddy Maneesh is building a startup based around training yourself to move closer to your goals through various good & bad stimuli.

All of this is focused around training your lizard brain – the little scattered brained piece inside your head that’s scared for no apparent reason & acts based on survival instinct rather than with purpose or intent – to work on autopilot in a way that’s congruent with your future goals & desires.

Humans > Lab Rats

This sort of pavlov training is a solid concept & there’s a lot of habit forming basics you can pick up from this in order to move yourself closer to your goals and become more efficient & productive.

That said, there’s one disconnect that I have with these approaches. That’s this: it’s basically training you to only act when a stimulus is present – essentially creating a very useful, very large, very capable lab rat – who only creates an expected response when a stimuli is present.

But there’s the simple disconnect I have. Here it is:

Humans are better than lab rats.

The X Factor

If you’re human (if you’re reading this, there’s a 99% chance you are), you’ve got an X factor.

The X factor that humans have and make us superior to some rats running around a maze in an experiment is that we get to choose.

We don’t have to be controlled endlessly by cheese. Sure, we can use it sometimes to jump start a project or get us going, but we can come up to a mouse trap and instead of just acting on instinct and going for it – we get to think, weigh our options and decide if that piece of cheese is worth it or not.

Sometimes it might be & sometimes it might not. That might involve going hungry for a bit or finding a new way around it.

It won’t be fun, it might be uncomfortable and it sure won’t be easy.

But you can choose to do it. If you really want to that is.

You Can Do Things You Don’t Want To Do

The cool things about humans is that we’re quite capable of doing things that we don’t want to do in order to do things that we really want to do.

I’ve gone over how I think motivation is crap. Discipline is where it’s at. You should do things you hate, become comfortable with the uncomfortable through doing things like taking cold showers & pushing your body physically to the limits.


Because it teaches you that you don’t have to only do the things that are easy & “possible.”

The reason most people don’t is because they’re not intentional. Because they’re constantly running on autopilot choosing default options that are the easiest instead of choosing the options that are the most effective (and often more difficult).

The amount of success you’ll have in life is directly proportionate to the number of uncomfortable situations you’re willing to put yourself in. – Nick Reese

I love that quote by Nick – especially the second half:

“…you’re willing to put yourself in.”

Freely deciding to immerse yourself in uncomfortable situations because you know it will make you better.

Instincts & reactions are sensations. That’s all – they pass. They don’t have any real impact on your future. Your decisions – however – are what make the difference – they are what decide how your path changes going forward.

If you delegate your decisions to sensations & feelings all of the time – you’ll wonder why you’re not doing the things you really want to do (because you’re not taking agency of your decisions – you’re delegating them over to temporary feelings).

Instead of that – try exercising will instead.

Pull a manual override and choose to jump head first into the uncomfortable, the difficult, the impossible and do it anyway.

You don’t have to be subjected to cheese. You don’t have to be a rat. You don’t have to run on autopilot.

There’s another option – it’s not easy, but it’s better.

Be better than a lab rat. Lean in. Get uncomfortable. Take a cold shower. Do something impossible.

You get to choose.

Be better than a lab rat.

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  1. says

    Another fun and insightful post. Teddy Roosevelt believed in living the strenuous life and developed his mind and body based primarily on discipline alone.

    I think Maneesh and you (Joel) both have it right and will pass this along to my followers.

  2. says

    “The amount of success you’ll have in life is directly proportionate to the number of uncomfortable situations you’re willing to put yourself in.”

    Love that.

    Something I’ve said before is that “there’s a direct correlation between a person’s habits and their levels of success.”

    Combining these two quotes I just came up with this:

    “Success is the result of making a habit of willingly putting yourself in uncomfortable situations.”

    The 30 day cold shower challenge is great way to start.

  3. says

    Brilliant. Love the rat correlation. If I’m being honest with myself (which I always try to do), I’d admit that I’m a rat by day, toiling away in his cubicle. Only management has moved my cheese and replaced it with the carrot and stick routine. (As if!) Thankfully, by night I’m all about choice, purpose and action. Your blog has fired me up; after reading it, I know I’m on the right track. Thanks and keep fighting the good fight.

  4. says

    I love that quote by Nick.

    I believe that the courage you build by putting yourself in uncomfortable situations has a spill-over effect, allowing you to use that courage for completely different kinds of uncomfortable situations.

    Go be crazy.

  5. says

    “You don’t have to be subjected to cheese. You don’t have to be a rat. You don’t have to run on autopilot.”

    Exactly, Joel.

    It’s all about living a deliberate life that emphasises choices and not the flow.

  6. says

    On the other side of this what if we can be instinctive about making decisions, about making the tough decisions? I believe in that quote you gave my Nick and believe that you have to get out of your comfort zones to live the life you want and not just the one you say you want with your mouth without the necessary action in uncomfortable situations.


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