Forcing Factor

A forcing factor is any factor that forces you to make a choice. They are often thought of as bad because when you are forced to make a choice that choice is not likely going to be a good one.

“Check” in the game of chess is one such negative forcing factor. Global climate change is another. However, they can be used for good if you take control of them.

If you think about forcing factors as the start of a feed back loop then you can use that to your advantage. The following are some ways I used them to make my life better.


Once upon a time - like most kids - I hated broccoli. So I forced myself to eat it first instead of last. By forcing myself to eat it first I creating a forcing factor that prevented me from eating the food I liked until I finished the broccoli.

As an adult I actually like broccoli, so this particular forcing factor isn’t necessary, but I still use the idea when trying new foods. Instead of resisting, I simply try new foods first, and if I don’t like it then I finish it anyway before moving to the foods I like. That way my doggy bag contains the food I do like and I get a second meal.

Cleaning Up After the Dogs

I dislike cleaning up dog poop. But I really dislike when people don’t clean up after their dogs, so I always clean up after my my dogs when I walk them. And I use that dichotomy as a forcing factor.

I used to let the dog out into our fenced in backyard to do their business I would simply let them out and back in. This meant that if we wanted to let the kids play back there (they’re toddlers) I would have to take 30 minutes and comb the backyard for the poop bombs, or clean it off the kids when started playing in it. It was not pleasant.

I would have to do the same before I mowed the backyard as well. Or I risked stepping in poop, or worse having it explode out of the lawn mower. Yuck!!!!

When I walk the dogs I always carry poop bags and clean up after my dogs. So now, I simply leash up the dogs and walk them around the front yard with poop bags two to three times a day. When the dogs go I clean it up and trash it. Now I never have to worry about there being poop bombs in my backyard.

At first it was annoying but now it is habit, and sometimes if the mood strikes me I simply take the dogs on a full walk around the neighborhood. Its better for me and the dogs.

Yard Work

I hate mowing the lawn, but I like a clean yawn. Specifically I like my front yard to look good for my neighbors. So, I use this to force me to do the entire yard.

My wife would prefer I do the “important” stuff first, so that I could quit in the middle. But half completed work bothers me.

I do the edging first (because I won’t do it if I wait). Then I mow the backyard, then the front, and finally I blow off the sidewalk, driveway, and patio so that everything looks nice. By doing it that order it ensures that I do it all, so when head in for the day I am not worried about how much work I have left.


Forcing factors can be bad, but you can still use them as a force for good in your own life. Take a step back, figure out what makes you avoid something and do that thing first (eating yucky food). Or find a thing you really don’t like and find a way to make it habit (picking up dog poop). Or find a way to organize a daunting tasks which ensures you complete it (yard work).

One benefit - not listed above - is that as you find and use forcing factors on yourself you become more aware of them. It becomes easier to see when others are using them for good or ill; which means your response will naturally become more calculated and less forced.

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