Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nudging Toward Greatness

Yesterday I was nudged to buy a pair of pants. Yep, I went into a store, found a pair of pants and went to the dressing room to try them on. Turning to hang them up in the dressing room I noticed a sign above a hook. It read "definitely." Turning around I saw another hook on the other side that read "possibly." The store was nudging shoppers to purchase more through the use of the signs.

A couple of years ago I read the book Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein about improving decision making by understanding how we choose. They opine the idea that we can allow people freedom, but make it more likely they will choose the better option if we give them a nudge. There are some interesting moral implications raised in the book, but I'll leave that for you to read.

What struck me yesterday from my shopping experience and as I remembered some of the research in Nudge was the possibility of using techniques to nudge us toward greatness. Some of the most difficult challenges are overcome by changing habits and the key is to make things easy.

For example, I have a salt tooth. I love salty food, and yet I know too much is not healthy for me. I've also discovered that if there is fresh fruit cut up and easily available in bite-sized chunks, I will eat them just as readily. So, placing the cut up fruit within easy access and not purchasing the chips nudges me toward healthier eating. Another experiment I'm trying as a writer is turning off my computer each night so it won't be on in the morning. On my desk are paper and pen (I do all my original writing long-hand) so that the first thing I nudge myself to do is sit and write not browse the Internet.

Where do you need a nudge? Think of how you might position what you need so it is in easy access or the first thing you see. You are more likely to do what you want and need to do if you nudge yourself in that direction.

Moving toward personal greatness requires an awareness of the small steps that propel us everyday. Changing one small step allows us to progress further on the journey to our own personal greatness. Positive nudges help. Oh, and I did buy that pair of pants. It was definitely a good choice.