Ho Hu


Monish Subherwal

What is Homeostasis and how does it relate to design?

Homeostasis is the innate drive within humans to stay the same.  In biological terms, it’s actually the physiological response in the body to maintain stable temperature, functions, and interactions of bodily systems.

For designers who are looking to develop themselves as competent leaders, homeostasis is the resistance we feel towards achieving change.

Why is It So Important?

Homeostasis IS the “enemy of change.”  When we put in efforts, homeostasis keeps us back to square 1.

We may want to improve our skills in presenting or learn a new software.  But weeks can go by without us spending the effort.  We know it’s important, but are not taking the right action.  Why?  Homeostasis is that inertia we all feel at times.

Indicators of Homeostasis

You are not producing changes even when you are in action.  Maybe you have even tried a boot camp or something drastic that still hasn’t produced results.

When you feel:

  • Frustrated you are not changing into the person you want to be, despite efforts [indicator of homeostasis]
  • When you make one-off attempts at change that don’t produce significant movement [identity level snap back]
  • When you have tried bootcamps and extreme solutions, but still you haven’t reached your goal [identity level snap back]

Things you may say that indicate homeostasis is at work:

  • I went to that class and I am still not reaching my goal [this is good, but maybe homeostasis is kicking in]
  • Should I just quit my job and do what I love [possibly, but depends on if attempts have been made to follow the other career.  I’d ask about if they have tried doing what they love daily]
  • I read that book on relationships like she wanted! I just don’t get why she doesn’t care! [an overwhelmed client, but one who doesn’t understand the nature of change]

5 Ways to Counter Homeostasis

I offer 5 ways to counter homeostasis:

  1. Incremental changes – take baby steps.  The slower you go, the more the body seems to accept the changes.  Rapid overnight change is unusual.
  2. Repetition (Daily reinforcement) – doing something every day consistency, deters homeostasis.
  3. Structures of Accountability – setting up a system so that you get yourself to do the things you need to do — deters homeostasis.
  4. Group Work – Mastermind groups or meetup groups or community work – tends to keep us on track more often.
  5. Engagement – Intellectual understanding is just data collecting sometimes.  You should be more active and also apply the knowledge so that your physiology gets rewired.


Interesting excerpt on homeostasis from Wikipedia.


From George Leonard’s book, Mastery:

Author George Leonard discusses in his book Mastery how homeostasis affects our behavior and who we are. He states that homeostasis will prevent our body from making drastic changes and maintain stability in our lives even if it is detrimental to us. Examples include when an obese person starts exercising, homeostasis in the body resists the activity to maintain stability.  Another example Leonard uses is an unstable family where the father has been a raging alcoholic and suddenly stops and the son starts up a drug habit to maintain stability in the family. Homeostasis is the main factor that stops people changing their habits because our bodies view change as dangerous unless it is very slow. Leonard discusses this dilemma as the media today only encourages fast change and quick results.