Thursday, February 06, 2014

Behavioral Loopholes

Everyone has behaviors that they are trying to do more of, trying to do less of, or trying to do differently.  But it is equally true that we all make excuses now and again to avoid this self-improvement.  I read somewhere that the average New Year’s Resolution doesn’t make it through January. 

Gretchen Rubin, leader of the Happiness Project (and author of a book of that name), has just finished a series on 10 “loopholes” – excuses that we make when we don’t feel like living up to our own expectations.  This link has them all listed, but only with a brief description.  I recommend clicking through and reading the more detailed explanations.  You will see yourself in most of them.  And if you are interested in getting better at changing your behavior, see which ones you are most guilty of and what she suggests for overcoming them.  Some of her advice is pretty good.

So by now you might be wondering why I am writing about this in my “Human Factors” blog.  Of course human behavior is one of the primary levers that we need to consider when designing any user experience.  Behavioral lapses don’t only occur when we are trying to lose weight or be more productive at work.  They also rear their ugly heads when we are engaged (or not so engaged) in any activity. 

On a more personal note, it is #5 that gets me and then I follow it up with #3.  When I don’t feel like doing something, I either avoid putting myself into a situation where I even have a chance to do it or I get myself so busy with other things that I conveniently run out of time and with all due ardor and devotion plan to do it the next time.  And then the cycle repeats.

Unfortunately, there is another loophole that Gretchen misses.  Now that I have gotten so used to "succumbing" to loopholes 5 and 3, I consider them part of my identity.  Doing them now resonates with me.  Failing at this behavior has become part of my identity and the self-improvement would be a violation. This goes beyond her loophole #4 "I can't help myself" because I don't even see it as bad any more.  I am not being bad, I am being "me." This seems more insidious.

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