Paul Nixon's Blog |||

Silver Bullet Fallacy

No matter how great our lives, we are always beset by problems. Some of them go away by themselves, and others respond to simple interventions.

Silver Bullet

However, not all of life’s challenges are so amenable. If we are not careful, they can become a permanent part of our lives. There is a common and pernicious way of thinking that acts to prevent us from finding solutions to difficult problems.

I’m going to call it the Silver Bullet Fallacy’.

Silver Bullet Fallacy

Here goes (and be kind, I made this up myself).

Silver Bullet Fallacy

The tendency to believe that longstanding and complex problems will be immediately solved if we implement the right intervention. In reality, however, it can take multiple interventions that, individually and collectively, may take a long time to work.

An example

Let’s take someone that is having problems sleeping. Imagine what would happen if the following was required to consistently get a great night’s sleep.

  • No caffeine after midday
  • AND walking every day for half an hour
  • AND journalling for 15 minutes before going to bed
  • AND not having more than four units of alcohol
  • AND not using devices after 20:00
  • AND not taking your phone to bed
  • AND you have to do all of these things in combination for three months

How many times have you heard people say something like I tried [intervention] for a [short amount of time] - and it didn’t make a difference”?


I’m very fond of the expression Only bad things happen quickly”. We should expect that affecting positive changes in our life will take a long time - perhaps a very long time.

When faced with a challenge, we are too inclined to try something for a short time. When it is not immediately miraculous, we give up. The danger is we burn through the positive interventions, never giving them enough time to work.

Taken to its logical conclusion, we’ll end up deciding that there is nothing that we can do. We are left either hoping that one day the issue goes away by itself, or conceding defeat and prepare to live with it forever.

The antidote: stack as many positive behaviours as you can and stick with them for a long time.