“Nudge” Yourself to a Better Life

Posted by Myles B. Brandt on 24 August 2009 | 1 Comments


I just recently picked up the book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Both authors are professors at the University of Chicago graduate school. It is a fairly comprehensive look at how we as a society can use the findings of social psychology to nudge ourselves or society as a whole to make better decisions and live a better life. Although I’m not even half way through the book (I want to take my time with this one), there are two things in particular I think are worth sharing:

Default your Goals: This is based on what is known as the Status Quo Bias. People generally stick with a previously made decision. Students tend to sit in the same seats and magazine subscriptions are more likely to get renewed if the subscriber has to make a phone call to cancel it. This is why they will give a discount for the first few issues or even make them free. Even if it costs us, we tend to stick to default options. Therefore, you should create positive default options in your own life that are aligned with your goals. For instance, you want to save $100 a month some purpose. If you make it an automatic transaction instead of having to transfer money manually every month, you are less likely to change and the chance that you save the money for your goals is greatly increased. If it is something that doesn’t cost money, set a date and write it down in your calendar. President Obama suggested during the campaign that 401(k) enrollment be made the default and that people can opt out of it if they want. This would increase the likelihood that people would save for retirement without infringing on their civil liberties.

Mere-Measurement Effect: This has to do with Priming, a small reference to something can cause an association that triggers action. When your intentions are measured, the likelihood that you will act on those intentions is greatly increased. Voting can be increased as much as 25% just by asking people the day before if they are going to vote. I recently experienced with a process called Mastermind Your Ideal ( I had to write down 5 “Must Do’s” that needed to be done within the next six months. The other day I found the list and crossed four out of the five off. I created a list of things that I wanted to accomplish in the next few years and started doing research and mapping the steps to get them finished. One year as part of a birthday present I received a name card that said on the back, “Keep track of your ambitions, whatever they may be.” This is a great way to do just that. This has been a very fruitful exercise for me and I suggest you do the same. This list will comprise your goals and from there you can default them.



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  • Another interesting and worthwhile book is The Success Principles by Jack Canfield......totally motivational and requires you to assume control of your life, challenge yourself to reach your highest goals and not blame the past. Highly recommended.

    Posted by Suzanne Boone, 31/08/2009 4:56pm (10 years ago)

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