Sunday, May 15, 2011


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.


Shanon said...

I am a FIRM believer that those still small whispers and voices that 'nudge' us are the Voice of God. How we choose to react to Him is what makes us who we are. I have always thought the way your precious daughter joined this family was nothing short of God working His mysterious ways when we have come to the end of ourselves. I wish I listened a little closer, and jumped to action instead of dancing around the subject like I do. But I also know that when I fail to act, God makes another way. I didn't know you were a blogger! So glad you posted a link! Love you.

Zen Mama said...

Warning - comment coming that could qualify as its own blog post:

If you have read or followed the Harry Potter series at all -that is when you are not finding the deeper meaning in an economic book as only you could - then you will understand when I say, you and I were caught up in Devil's Snare.

Devil's Snare is a plant with magical properties. Its power is the ability to constrict or strangle its surrounding environment. Struggling or resistance to Devil's Snare will cause the plant to exert a greater force of constriction. It likes things dark and damp so to escape it you must bring light.

The more you struggled against my unstable rantings, the more you were constricted.

There has never been one word you have uttered or written that offended me. Your words are poetry to me, like listening to a favorite song - even if that song makes me hurt.

I believe in nudges and yes, I do think they are telling us to act. For me, that act was to separate myself from something that had become uncomfortable. Nothing to do with you - in fact when you took me to task, I knew you loved me. But the underbelly of the group carried a swift and heavy hand of judgment for which I cannot abide.

It took me back to a dark place and I had to do what I do best - run like the wind.

I am still in touch with the bird, and I suspect P & S as well, eventually. I don't want to lose you and I shutter to think you would doubt your decision to not send money my way. It would not have changed my feelings for those who sit in their rocking chairs and think of me as a hopeless drunk. In fact, don't I owe you money?

When someone sends me a random act of kindness like that, I accept it but it always makes me cry. ALWAYS. It is equal parts happy tears for knowing I am loved and sad tears for being here - where I am today.

I want to be in a position to send money or offer helping hands to those around me. I'm not as familiar and comfortable with these surroundings.

But I am in a dark, dark place where there is a very fine line between good days/life and bad days/not so much life.

I spoke to R yesterday and I know I'm in a place where I need help. I can't lose sight of my goals with my children because I am constantly reminded that Lauren + meatballs = awesomeness.

What makes my cry really hard is thinking of you and R coming to see me. Bring Grace, bring Allie and get up here to show my kids we are loved.

Ms. Birdie got a big ol' earful of a tantrum when we got together with lunch with my kids and all I could think was, she's so fragile, she just buried her mom. For Christ's sake kids, please just give me a moment to love on this woman.

But it was not to be. I just got to surface talk with her, have some awesome tortilla soup and watch her tiny little frame walk away from me with eyes that said it all. Her love is abiding and so is yours. I have never felt your spirit leave me.

I am seeking out the light that will release me from my own personal Devil's snare. How positively brilliant of JK Rowling to use the analogy of fighting against the enemy versus letting go in order to be released.

I love you Sweetie Pie. From the time we drove down 59th street in your convertible to this very day when I am always so damn proud of every thing you do - even laying into me, when the truth from your soul needed to come forth.

I worry about you keeping your job but secretly I harbor this belief that you have been held back there. As we have already ascertained, I am a risk taker - with less than stellar results but nonetheless I can't help but "nudge" you out to take some risks of your own because you've got all the pieces in place and I know if this door closes, the right one will open up for you.

In the words of the Avatar movie, "I see you". And no, I do not feel we are estranged.

BTW, I loved the photos too.

Hurting in Milwaukee -

But loving you.