All of us have a ‘doer’ and a ‘planner’ in us. The trick is to identify them and make them work in our favour.
A few days ago, I was returning from a late-night movie and was tempted to head to a newly opened pub in my neighbourhood. Their bar menu was expensive but looked simply amazing.
As I was driving my car home, there were two voices in my head. One, the mischief-maker or the ‘doer’, was saying that I must not miss this opportunity. “Do it, you only live once!” it said.
“You can choose the less expensive drinks and that way you can save on your dinner expense by eating some peanuts or finger foods at the pub. You simply must go. Think of the cocktails, the martinis, the olives that you love so much and the clink of ice into liquor. Go for it!”
The more prudent voice in me, the ‘planner’, was saying, “Listen, this bar is very expensive. You will spend nothing less than Rs.2500 here and you can use the money to enrol your daughter in holiday camp, which costs about the same. Also, even if you eat finger foods, chances are you may get hungry at night and end up heading to a 24/7 café that will cost you dinner money anyway.”
Never the one to be silenced, the Doer said, “Your daughter is out with your husband. You won’t get this chance again. This is your time to go out and have a real ‘me’ time. Don’t worry about the cost. You can save and make up later. So what if it is impulsive and unlike you to go to a pub? You are missing out on what others are enjoying. Why come back to an empty house when you can go out?”
In the end, I decided to go back home, make some dinner, and watch Netflix on TV. Not exactly a ‘cool’ way to end the day but trust me, I was truly happy and enjoyed myself. I slept well that night, didn’t have a hangover and had no guilt whatsoever, waking up the next day to get to work with a clear head and no headache. I also thanked my lucky stars that Bangalore did not have an alcohol delivery system yet.
Let me be clear. It’s great to go to pubs and enjoy ourselves but what made this such an impulsive decision was that I am not the type of person who frequents pubs, whether alone or in a group. I drink very rarely, if at all and only socially.
Humans are inconsistent
In the book ‘Nudge’, Richard Thaler and Cass R Sunstein identify two inner voices that dominate our minds when it comes to making choices. There is the ‘doer’, who tells you to go for it and not look at the consequences. Then there is the ‘planner’ or the voice of reason, which tells you that you have life goals and you need to work towards them.
As a behavioural experiment, Thaler kept a bowl of cashewnuts to go with the wine at a lavish dinner party he was hosting. Everyone at the dinner started mindlessly eating the cashews and were about to finish the bowl even before dinner started, so Thaler took the bowl away forcibly and the guests realized that they really did not need the cashews at all and they thanked him for the intervention, for the ‘nudge’. According to Thaler, the people were displaying “dynamically inconsistent” behaviour. They were perfectly free to turn down the cashews but they didn’t. That was because it was there in front of them for the taking.
Long story short, there is no set pattern to way human beings think or act. The mind is perfectly happy going into a state of inertia and engages in mindless behaviour. By buying smaller plates, keeping less food in the house or ordering smaller portions, we can trick our minds into eating less. By roping in friends, apps, hacks and external institutions, we can actually condition our reckless spending and urges. We can become consistent and understand ourselves better.
Empowering your voice of reason
Let’s go back to my example. Many factors contributed to the Planner in me winning. I knew I had to leave my car at home and take a cab to the pub, and this was too cumbersome. Also, this pub had a dress code and I was in no mood to trade my flip flops for high heels and a great dress.
As it turned out, I went home, ate a great dinner and even discovered a great new Netflix show! In the end, the quality of an experience is in no way proportionate to the amount you spend on it. Some of the happiest days of my life have been when my daughter and I would buy dry fruits from street vendors, fill our pockets with kishmish and cashews, and walk home, munching on them. Such days are magical days, and they beat four-course dinners hollow, although four-course dinners are lovely too. Looking back, those walks home are the days that I will remember and treasure forever.
The above blog is by Shweta Sharan
Image Credit : Pixabay