Success By Default!
(How to arrange your environment to make living your best life just happen!)
Have you heard the term "Choice Architecture?" It's a term coined by behavior scientist and engineers to explain how our environment can influence and drive the choices we make.
You might assume that we humans buy stuff because of what they are, but the truth is that more often than not, we buy things because of where they are. For example, items on store shelves that are at eye level tend to be purchased more than items on less visible shelves.
In the best-selling book Nudge (Kindle), authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein explain a variety of ways that our everyday decisions are shaped, not by our cognitive will, but by the world around us. The effect that eye-level shelves have on our purchase habits is just one example.
Here’s another example: Did you know the ends of aisles at all the stores you go to are money-making machines for retailers? According to data cited by the New York Times, 45 percent of Coca-Cola sales come specifically from end-of-the-aisle racks.
Here’s why this is important:
End of aisles are always the first and last things we see (think checkout line). They are also the easiest to reach for.
As humans we always default to the Simple and the Easy.
Remember: simple and easy by default.
This is true not just in stores, but in nearly every area of our lives. There are default choices in your office and in your car, in your kitchen and in your living room.
My point is this: If you optimize the default triggers in your environment you will optimize the default decisions in your life.
Rather than accepting whatever is handed to you, by taking control of how your surroundings naturally influence you it will be easier to live a better life.
Ok, Let’s get practical with this right now.Here are a few strategies I have found useful when trying to design better default decisions into my life:
1.) Eliminating To The Simple. It is more difficult to eat healthy when your kitchen is filled with junk food. It is more difficult to focus on writing another chapter in that book when you have Facebook at your fingertips. It is more difficult to accomplish your most important task when you fall into the myth of multitasking.
When you want to make progress in anything, eliminate the clutter and the noise so that your only option is what you want to get done.
2.) Set Up Visual Cues. Visual cues literally govern our lives (think driving around town). In the supermarket, placing items on shelves at eye level makes them easier to see and more likely to be purchased. Take advantage of this glitch in the human psyche and set up visual cues to create an environment that visually nudges your actions in the direction of what matters most to you in every area of your life.
3.) Opt-Out vs. Opt-In. There is a famous organ donation study that revealed how multiple European countries skyrocketed their organ donation rates: they required citizens to opt-out of donating rather than opt-in to donating.
We see companies employ this strategy on us all the time. They know if they can make it easy for us to opt-in to their offer by giving us the first six months free, the chances of us remembering to cancel our subscription is drastically reduced. It's always harder to back out of something than it is to start something.
You can do something similar in your life by opting your future self into better habits ahead of time. For example, you could shell out a non-refundable $500 fee one year in advance to compete in your first Ironman (this is what I did back in 2010). Or you could wear your workout clothes to bed and schedule to meet your friend at the gym at 6:30 am.
My point is this: it's a lot harder to justify opting-out of something than it is motivating yourself to opt-in.
Designing for default comes down to a very simple premise: shift your environment so that the good behaviors are easier and the bad behaviors are harder.
To make living your best life just happen, set up your surroundings to make the best choice the default decision.
Be Strong, Be Happy, Be YOU!
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