Nudges in the structure and context of our lives are far more important than we realize. If we’re nudged to walk to the grocery store instead of drive, if we’re nudged to fast through the occasional meal or to eat a carrot instead of a potato chip, if we’re nudged to pick up a book before bed instead of turning on the TV, then the length and quality of our lives changes dramatically.
How do we create these nudges? We can live in a walkable neighborhood close to a grocery store and other places we frequently visit. We can buy healthy snacks instead of junk food, so that when we’re hungry, we find fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts instead of chips and queso. We can keep TVs and other screens out of the bedroom. We can ask our partners and friends to hold us accountable for our goals.
Conversely, if we allow ourselves to be nudged into different kinds of negative behaviors, such as when social media companies entice us to pick up our phones just a little more often to read just a few more posts, then the quality of our lives degrades quickly. It’s not that driving, consuming social media, or eating potato chips are inherently bad, at least not in moderation. But with limited attention, time, and willpower, being repeatedly nudged into mildly destructive behaviors adds up quickly, our health suffers, and our lives become less fulfilling.
Nudges exist in our lives whether we’re aware of them or not. It’s up to us what kind of nudges we allow to move us. We can consciously create positive nudges that free us or unconsciously allow negative nudges to control us. Nudges can help us stay fit or gain weight, feel great or get sick, grow or stagnate, experience ultra-longevity or live a normal lifespan. Creating positive nudges instead of negative ones can make the difference between achieving and failing at our goals.