The architecture of a house dictates the structure or rather, creates the design for said structure. Once the architectural designs are drawn up and agreed there is little going back and you’re fairly sure you know what your house is going to look like.
If we ever had the pleasure of designing our own house, we would construct a design that represented ourselves. The design would reflect our personal quirks, ambivalent nature, for all intents and purposes it would be the home of ‘us’.
Apparently, according to the brilliant book ‘Nudge’, the world has had architects working on it for a fair while.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
There are a lot of decisions to make in this life.
Small decisions: what to eat, when to get a coffee, whether it is indeed a coffee you want or whether a glass of water would suffice. Whether this top goes with these trousers, if your hair should go in a bun or looks better resting on your shoulders. The big decisions: if you want to move houses or not, marry this person, move jobs.
Either way, we cut it, our life is spent making decisions.
It is reasonable to suggest that we have quite a lot of responsibilities on our shoulders with all these decisions to make. And you could argue that because we make these decisions so frequently that we would be rather good at them. Practice makes perfect of course.
As if our rational minds are the best-placed minds to make the decisions for us. After all who else would be better placed to know what you want for dinner, how to spend your money, what clothes to wear?
However, we all know what’s good for us and we often skip that for a different option. We know what food is good and bad so how come we often favour a jam doughnut over an apple? We know that habits lead to success and achievement of our goals — yet we so frequently skip our daily habits in search of something easier.
If we were rational folk we would save most of our income, spend our days enjoying ourselves, working hard and we would most definitely be eating our 5 a day. Yet we don’t. We don’t because there is a counter-argument to thinking you are best placed to be making your decisions.
That counter-argument is that you are not the best person to be making your own decisions or maybe, you need some help.
We Are Not Rational By Any Means
Us humans aren’t very rational though. We choose a sugary doughnut over a healthy apple because, well, the jam doughnut tastes better. We choose the not to go for a run every morning because although it might make us feel better after, the thought of it now makes us want to curl up in bed.
Although it makes sense to choose the things that are good for us, in actual fact those things that we think matter most — health and success, don’t until we are met square in the fact with them.
It’s often you don’t really consider your eating habits until your bowels squirm and then you think maybe you should lay off the carbs. You always knew you ate too many carbs but carbs taste good, so it’s not until you’re met with evidence that it’s bad for you, that you do something about it.
Until then, we carry on making bad decisions because they feel good.
But If We’re Being Really Honest Here
So now we’ve got it all out in the open.
We eat carbs because they taste good, we’d rather eat a doughnut than an apple, we’d rather stay in bed than go for a morning run.
Let's look at what else is true.
It’s probable that when you open your new iPhone for the first time you will dash through all the setting options to get to the point that you can browse the internet or text your friends. When it comes to settings, we’re really not that bothered.
We go with the default.
That is quite true in other areas of life too. Retirement plan? Whatever the default contribution is we tend to stay with. Whatever shoes are near the front door we’ll wear.
Whatever food is in the cupboard… we’ll eat.
You can see where this is going.
Due to the huge amount of decisions, we have to make in a day, we go with the default more often than not.
How Does That Relate to Our Lives?
Our lives are not too distant from the house analogy in the introduction. We know what we want our house to look like and we call them our goals.
We know what our minimum requirements are, the non-negotiables. A minimum of three bedrooms is likened to your salary requirements and the minimum width of the garden much like your need to get on with your boss.
There are things that we decide we just need from our lives.
Whatever those decisions are for you, that is the design of your house.
You shouldn’t compromise on your architectural drawings because you could get it cheaper which is the equivalent of reducing your decisions to something easier.
What you can do though is make the likelihood of obtaining your decisions easier to make every single day.
Let’s take the goal of eating healthier. This is a classic one and I would bet that every time January 1st comes around the majority of people setting goals has something health-related on their new year's resolution list.
- “Lose 10 pounds by February”
- “Eat more veggies”
- “Reduce the number of carbs”
That kind of thing. Now for habits to change there are a few things we need to be mindful of. Every time its mealtime, we have a decision to make. Carbs or no carbs. Veg or no veg. That decision is going to be made harder if your cupboards are full to the brim with Snickers and Twirls.
If you know you’re likely to go with the default, design your house for the default to be the desired choice.
How Can We Use It to Benefit Us?
When the first pair of shoes at the door is your running shoes, your more likely to go for a run. When a cold bottle of water is in the fridge, perched next to your healthy, pre-packed lunch, you’re more likely to take that than spend $10 at the cafeteria.
When your work clothes are laid out, your more likely to dress for the occasion than be rushed and stick any old thing on, or of course, be late.
You can design your world around you to allow you to meet your goals and be the best version of yourself.
You just need the right tools and the right mindset.
Then making the right choice is much easier.