In the past few years, I have taken a huge interest in Behavioral Economics, and have read some great books related to the topic such as the Freakonomics series, Predictably Irrational, and Thinking Fast and Slow, as well as listen to podcasts such as Freakonomics Radio and Hidden Brain.
A big part of my interest in learning about Behavioral Economics is not just to implement it in my marketing and research career, but in my personal life, especially for goal attainment. I hope this is something you also share, and that we can help each other on this journey. So if you came here for answers, you may leave with more questions!
I have been doing research for a couple of years (on and off) on how to set goals for myself, and commit to achieving them. Most people share the same common goals of eating healthy, getting fit/being more active, etc. That's also what I am focusing on, not because it is a social trend, but because it's what's missing from my life. I mostly lack discipline and routine because my life has no specific structure because for many years I've had flexible jobs that involve frequent traveling…. I love the freedom and flexibility, which just adds to my laziness and lack of discipline or motivation to do anything else haha
My habitual routine involves:
Sitting in front of the TV for most of the day, which I really love, especially when I can find something that really stimulates my brain and gets me thinking, or at least entertains me.
Spending hours on my smartphone, which I don't necessarily consider a waste of time because I focus on consuming useful articles related to my work/life, and maintaining social connections which is important since I live alone.
While I now maintain an overall healthy diet at home, I tend to indulge on unhealthy food when traveling since I have less control of what's around to eat, and I also tend to hunt for good food that isn’t available in my home town haha. This shouldn’t be much of a problem if I didn’t travel so often!
Every now and then, I muster the motivation and willpower, which research show aren't sustainable, to stick to a balanced routine of healthy food and workout... But that doesn't last for long before I switch back to my regular more natural habits.
Now I am trying to kickstart the healthy routine again, part of which is taking tje Behavioral Economics in Action course on edx to do something useful during the day apart from watching TV.
In the first unit, we learnt about 4 strategies for behavior change, that can be implemented to make changes on people’s behavior in the policy and welfare world, as well as business world… You can learn about them in the video below from the course, which is highly recommended!
So now I am thinking: How can I use these strategies to help me build a healthy routine?
This is what I got so far:
Restriction on choices: Easiest implementation starts with only buying healthy food for home; which I've been doing for a long while. But I still need to control my portions (even healthy food in big portions isn't good for health!). Also, I worked on restricting TV and mobile use past 11 pm, where I switch to reading or podcast listening. What can I do further? Have you tried something that worked for you? Any ideas?
Monetary incentives: Not sure I can give myself money to commit to exercising lol but perhaps if I commit to paying money to a gym/coach, then I can go more often?! I don't see that working out unless the payment is high enough that it would be a legitimate loss. Or maybe incentives can be other than monetary? Like in the form of cake that I earn as a reward for achieving milestones lol What do you think?
Information and persuasion: Information is perhaps the only area where I've done the most work; I'm more of a mental/pensive than a physical/active person. So while I enjoy gathering useful information, researching, analyzing, etc. It doesn't always lead to persuasion to take action or sustain it! Am I simply just not accessing the "right" information that will persuade me to commit to action? What does research say about this?
Nudging: This seems like the most promising technique, using “positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behavior and decision making of groups or individuals”, already with many studies showing its success, and entire top-selling books dedicated to it. It can be in the form of "reminders" that I set for myself to perform certain activities. Another possibility is to make changes to my home environment to add cues for certain habits, like putting fruits in a visible/reachable place to increase consumption. I wonder what kind of nudges would work on getting me to be more active... Even a simple few exercise routines that require no equipment or preparation don't seem to come naturally to me, and feel like they need to be forced/nudged. What nudges do you think would work? Anything you've personally tried or think of trying?
I would like to hear your opinions, thoughts, and anecdotes based on personal experience, as well as any interesting research tidbits that you might have come across, in the comments. Let's use this opportunity to make real sustainable change!