I've been thinking a lot about nudges lately. It all started with a book I read, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. It's classified as an economic book...not my usual genre by a long shot. But I saw some blurb somewhere about it which discussed how school cafeterias can encourage children to make better food choices just in how those choices are presented. For example, children are less likely to eat french fries if they have to go around to the back side of the serving line to get the french fries. Or, if the chocolate milk is moved behind the white milk, children are less likely to choose it, even though it still is easily available to them. Fascinating!
I've been completely mesmerized by this concept. How can I put this to work in my own life? Can I encourage myself and my family to make better food choices if I put the carrot sticks and the grapes front and center in the fridge? How can I use this concept to get my butt in bed at a decent time and finally get enough rest? I'm just obsessed with it.
And so I've also been thinking about nudges in a more general context. I really believe that God speaks to us through these nudges...a growing feeling that further and more invasive infertility treatment was not for us, a mention by a friend of an adoption agency looking for potential adoptive parents open to adopting a child of another race, and on the other side of that equation, a young woman with an unplanned pregnancy feels a nudge to contact an adoption agency. These nudges are miracles, really. You can't convince me otherwise.
But sometimes I ignore the nudges. And I wonder how it changes the course of my life. A few months ago, I woke up one day with a sudden feeling that I should send a friend of mine $200. For about two days, I could not shake the feeling. I didn't make a conscious decision not to send the money, but I hemmed and hawed and worried over how the friend would perceive an unexpected check in the mail--she is proud and I was afraid she might be offended. I never sent the money. In the intervening months, an unrelated series of events unfolded and now this friend and I are estranged. And I wonder, would we be if I had just sent that money?
I do know this, I do intend to listen more closely to those nudges in the future.
The photos that accompany this post have nothing to do with nudges, I just think they are pretty. I recently visited the Georgia Aquarium and was quite impressed. If you are ever in Atlanta, it is well worth the rather substantial cost of admission.