Towards the end of the book “Presence,” author Amy Cuddy discusses the concept of self nudging as a catalyst to change. Nudging is an idea popularized by the book “Nudge” in 2008 by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Essentially, a nudge is a tiny little step towards something that will result in a medium sized gain. When you talk to people that make significant life changes, such as losing 100 pounds, often it’s the cumulative effect of several little nudges. For instance, I have a client who prior to working with me, hadn’t exercised regularly in 25 years. Her business associate at the time (also a client) wanted to put together a small group yoga class one evening a week after work. My work space was near by, she had been trying to figure out how to fit exercise into her life, and she thought, “why not? I can handle one evening a week.” Eventually, the yoga class fizzled, but by then she had committed to two days a week of training with me. When yoga ended, she searched for a replacement, and found Tai Chi, a modality that resonated with her. She began taking Tai Chi classes twice a week in addition to the twice a week training sessions. One day, she and I were talking and I mentioned the importance of regular cardiovascular activity for heart health. She thought about it, realized she had an old exercise bike gathering dust, and began using that for 10 minutes, 5 days a week. That gradually morphed into 20 minutes, 5 days a week. The woman who hadn’t exercised for 25 years now gets approximately 90 minutes of movement, 6 days a week.
Change is daunting. There is a pervading idea that to make something worthwhile, we have to make it count. However, this mentality often stops us from starting or causes us to start a major life change only to realize 3 weeks later that it’s too much. Had the client above tried to increase her exercise from zero to her current level, she would have become discouraged, or injured, or burned out. The gradual change, the small nudges, allowed her to change her lifestyle in a much more permanent way. Small nudges can produce lasting results.