Go Nudge Yourself


In behavioural economics, one strategy to help encourage people to grow their savings is to get them to commit to a future decision. For example it might be that you commit to giving 50% of the next raise you get to your saving fund. If you stick to that, then when you get your $5,000 raise next month you have already committed to yourself that you will give $2,500 to your saving fund. Linking the ‘loss’ associated with saving to a moment when you will feel ‘gain’ makes the pill easier to swallow. Making a commitment to a future choice point means we don’t need to go through the pain now and we have a trigger to start this new behaviour (the raise). Even more importantly, by determining this in advance, we support the more rational part of our brain in that moment when the pull towards the short term is so strong. Watch this for more in the moment temptation in the face of a longer term goal! 

How about you play this game with yourself and your behaviour. Give yourself a nudge to do something brave or something you know you should do for your own good but is hard to do. You could commit to giving more of what you actually think not what you think is expected next time you are asked for your opinion, regardless of the scenario; Or commit to yourself that the next time someone makes an inappropriate joke, you will indicate your uncomfortableness rather than go with the flow, regardless of who is there and in what environment it occurs. Commit to saying ‘yes’ when you are next asked to do something that scares you regardless of what it is that you are asked; Or commit to saying ‘no’ next time when someone asks you to take something else on; Or commit to the process of asking one more question even when you think you understand someone’s point of view. This doesn’t mean you have to follow through with the commitment you have made yourself, that would be like committing to cross the road regardless of whether there are any cars coming. Rather, you are nudging the longer term focused part of your brain, the stretch bit, to have some opportunity to weigh in and deal with the short term thinking part of your brain in the moment.

If you know what you need to be doing, but it’s hard to do, make a future commitment using your full range brain so your habitual brain has more competition in the moment. Don't forget to write it down, and if you really want to nudge yourself, sign it. If you are super serious, get someone to be a witness - go nudge yourself.