This technique is a gentle way to remind and encourage yourself in the midst of the daily grind.
Professor Alessandro Antonietti, professor of psychology at the Catholic University of Milan, often speaks about an interesting concept that may be helpful for all those who set goals and have trouble reaching them: nudging.
We all know how it goes with our resolutions to get more exercise, eat healthy, spend less time on the computer, pray more, take more walks … We start out with enthusiasm and often end with discouragement.
Conquering bad habits, picking up good habits, and resisting temptation isn’t easy and can lead to “ego depletion.” Constantly remembering the goal to be achieved and striving never to give in can make our mental resources run out over time. We need an ally in the battle.
Nudging is basically creating the right conditions in our daily life that will move us toward our new habits and goals with less conscious effort.
Nudging for better eating
Experimental research in psychology has observed that an effective way to nudge people to choose healthier foods in cafeterias is to change how and where foods are displayed on the shelves.
The same principle applies to food storage at home. If we put the less healthy foods in places that are not as easily accessible, and put healthy foods within easy reach – and keep the two separate – then we will be more likely to pick better options when the afternoon munchies strike.
To reduce food quantities, another excellent nudge trick is to eat from a small container or plate in order to make the serving appear larger.
Environmental nudging: Light, order and clean air!
Nudges are also useful in the physical environment in which we live and work every day. For example, well-lit spaces help to stay on track with what we’re supposed to be doing. And good smells – perhaps a natural room freshener – push us to take better care of our home or office.
The same goes for order and cleanliness: if we keep our work or living space in order, it will be easier to keep our commitments and our work will be easier.
A novel in the gym: An incentive to continue training
In many gyms abroad, when you join you receive a novel from your favorite genre, but you can’t take it with you. You can read it only in the gym while walking on the treadmill or pedaling on the exercise bike. So, that natural sense of curiosity about how the novel proceeds tends to draw people back to the gym to keep working out.
We can use the same technique on ourselves. For example, we can upload an audiobook on the phone that we can never find the time for, a lesson that we recorded at the university, or listen to catechesis in audio format while we run or work out. Workouts can also become our protected time to keep up with our reading and learning goals. Two birds with one stone!
Nudging also comes from others
Did you know that sharing your goals with others increases your likelihood of achieving them? Once we say what we’re going to do, other people keep us accountable by asking us how it’s going — or perhaps we just don’t want to lose face by giving up too easily.
How many times do we sign up for a course because our friend encouraged us to? Or stop smoking because our husband did it first?
You can find online networks of people who are pursuing the same goals, and this virtual and social support can be just the nudge you need to succeed.
It’s a tough battle to reach our goals, so all of these little nudges can only help. Give them a try!