As a High School student, I remember always finding Chemistry something between the boring and intriguing. Still, it isn’t hard to find myself wondering about the science concepts I’ve learned at that time.

Lately, I’ve been particularly thinking about catalysis.

In Chemistry, catalysis is the acceleration of a reaction due to the participation of a substance – the “catalyst”.

The way a catalyst induces a reaction to happen faster is intriguing. Curiously, it neither gives the reaction more energy nor change its environmental conditions. Catalysts have an even better strategy: they lower the amount of energy required for the reaction to take place.

Diagrama representando conhecimento como ele realmente é
Uncatalyzed reaction (solid) vs. catalyzed reaction (dashed). The highest point is the energy required for the reaction to happen.

In a catalysed reaction, then, the same product is obtained for less energy. Bringing this concept to our lives is quite thought-provoking.

Sometimes it isn’t possible for us to achieve something because it demands more time or energy than what we currently have. To deal with this, we then try looking for them in our lives – which mostly means depriving yourself of things.

However, matter of fact is that optimising isn’t always about getting rid of things in your life. If we think of catalysis, we can manage it differently.

What if the problem weren’t the lack of energy or time, but that we’re in need of too much of them in order to get things done? Having a catalyst would totally figure it out. Without something that pushes us forward, we’ll always require more energy for the product we want to get.

At this point, you may think your catalyst is your motivation. Motivation is out of our control though – which makes it a goal, not a source. It’s also too ephemeral, and a catalyst mustn’t ever be consumed by an unique reaction, just like in Chemistry. We can’t count on being motivated!

So it goes more like what habitual and practical things in life would give you productivity for less. Is it everyday meditation? A partner by your side? Self-confidence? Inspiring weekends without thinking of work at all? Eating healthy? Going out for a walk every day?

You have to mind what pushes your forward. Catalysts themselves cannot make a reaction happen that wouldn’t happen on its own, but they sure make it occur under less extreme conditions. It’s an improvement when you’re already motivated.

So, what’s your catalyst?