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Be the expert: How would you use psychological defaults to change these 3 behaviors?

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I wanted to share something from the cutting-room floor of my New York Times article on the psychology of financial willpower, which didn’t make final print.

In the article, I shared some of the latest research on how extraordinarily difficult it is to change our behavior: Many of us think we’re in control of the decisions we make about money, but when we simply “try harder,” our willpower often fails us and we fall right back into our old spending habits.

One powerful solution for behavioral change starts by changing your defaults. It’s not sexy and it’s not a “magic pill” — but it works.

Now, let me show you another example that you didn’t see in that article.

How to reduce infant HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa

By changing the default from opt in to opt out, the pre-natal screening no longer required “willpower” to change behavior. The results: Testing rates skyrocketed from 65% to 99%.

The implications for changing pro-social behavior are profound.

Be the Expert: How would you engineer behavioral change?

Let’s say I hire you to change the following behaviors:

  1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs
  2. Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his savings account by June
  3. Help someone feel measurably happier

How would you do it using defaults?

(If you’re not sure, refer to my NYT article, my bookmarks on psychology, and the superb book, Nudge.)

The BEST answer gets a phone call with me, where I’ll help you pinpoint and change, amplify, or eliminate one critical behavior.

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173 Comments on "Be the expert: How would you use psychological defaults to change these 3 behaviors?"

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Jesse A
5 years 7 months ago

1. Cook meals in advance and have them in containers for each day of the week. Have plenty of healthy snacks handy.

2. Automate it so that x dollars go into savings automatically with each pay.

3. Help them put their mood into perspective. Have them list what they’re greatful for.

Sarah
Sarah
5 years 7 months ago
1. For the busy exec, I would fill his/her fridge with healthy foods that were easy to prepare (microwaveable, already doled out in correct portion sizes). These would be foods that reflect the person’s preferences, so they would be more desirable and convenient than ordering takeout. 2. I would help the careless 26 year old set up an automatic transfer $300 a month to a savings account right after he/she received a paycheck so that he/she was saving without even noticing. This assumes that moving $300 at the start of the month will still leave them with enough for their… Read more »
Ely
Ely
5 years 7 months ago
#2 is easy – automate/direct deposit some of his paycheck into savings. Never see it, never miss it. I’d get #1 a standing desk & headset. If s/he doesn’t have to sit down to use the phone or computer, s/he’ll get healthier quick – and probably more efficient at work too. Most execs I know love to pace & gesture dramatically, which is much easier if you’re already standing. (I’d also stock that desk with satiating healthy snacks like almonds for folks who skip meals or get the munchies – if it’s closer than the vending machine, s/he’ll eat that… Read more »
Josh Crocker
5 years 7 months ago
Great challenge! 1. Busy executive: 3 came to mind immediately: – Move the exec’s parking space to the back of the parking lot so they have to walk further to get to their office every day. – Shut down the elevator so stairs are the only option. – Schedule meetings with the exec at the gym during a quick 10-minute jogging session (like Keith Ferrazzi talks about in “Never Eat Alone”) 2. Careless 26 year old: Set up an automated savings plan like your book says, to have $250 moved automatically to the savings account, 1-2 days after pay day… Read more »
Dan
Dan
5 years 7 months ago
The Result and the Time Frame For achieving any goal, the most efficient way to plan to succeed is to have a quantifiable result, and a time frame in which to reach the result. For item 2, a specific result is given and a time frame is provided. For item 1, a result is provided but not a time frame. For item 3, neither a result nor a time frame is provided. For item 1, let’s say that the executive has 20 weeks to lose the 10 pounds. Item 3 is difficult because we must first establish a criteria for… Read more »
Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach
5 years 7 months ago
I appreciated your thoughtful response. To piggy back off of your answer to Number 3, I think it’s important to not only think about what could create happiness, but also about what is making you not happy. Sometimes you need to take something out of your life such as spending time with constantly negative people. But other times, it’s not about adding Happiness Creators or decreasing Sadness Creators but about shifting your mindset. If something is outside of your control to take action on (i.e. I’m 5’5″ and want to be taller and heels are in style for women but… Read more »
Dane
Dane
5 years 7 months ago
1. Since they are probably already on a three-meal-a day schedule, I’d allow them to eat whatever they wanted for those three meals, AFTER they ate an apple and a protein shake (one that contains a fiber supplement or oatmeal). That’s right – finish an apple and a protein shake and then you can chow down on whatever you want. The thing is, you’ll be satiated enough by the first two items that you will not overeat on crappy food. Those ten pounds will be gone in no time. Working out would help, but isn’t necessary – you can’t out… Read more »
Léan Ní Chuilleanáin
5 years 7 months ago
1. Since you don’t specify a time limit, I’d get her to commit to ONE small default change for ONE month. Something like “I don’t use elevators”, or “I don’t eat dessert on weekdays”, or “Breakfast every morning is two portions of fresh fruit and a boiled egg” – whatever fits best for her. After that month, I’d get her to add one more default change, for another month. And so forth until the 10lbs had gone the way of all flesh (see what I did there?). 2. Automated money transfer, every payday. 3. Tricky! Three ideas. First, as I… Read more »
David
David
5 years 7 months ago
1. Helping a busy executive lose 10 lbs. Most offices are full of junk food, and when people are busy, these staches become meal replacements. Simply replacing whatever candy or other snacks are around the office with nuts (because they don’t go bad, and therefore can be kept on hand unlike fruits or vegetables) would cause snacking to become a healthy endeavor. Also, since nuts have been shown to increase satiety, the executive would not feel hungry as often. 2. Helping a careless 26 year old save $1500 by June. June is 6 months away, so to save $1500, the… Read more »
Caleb
Caleb
5 years 7 months ago

1) Have healthy, pre-made meals delivered. Remove all other food from the house/work area, except for specifically delivered healthy snacks.

2) Change to direct deposit (if not already done). Have $1500 / paychecks until June directed to a different savings account via direct deposit (or automated withdrawals from the main account, if DD doesn’t allow for multiple accounts).

3) Find something that makes them happy, and put pictures of that thing in places that they will see/interact with it (like computer desktop images, on the fridge, etc.)

Hamed
Hamed
5 years 7 months ago
1. I’m assuming the busy exec has a PA: start of every month the PA asks the exec to approve a list of five healthy lunches. Once the exec signs off, the PA now orders lunch every day for the exec. Exec never has to think about lunch: either it just appears every day at 12:30, or the exec goes to pick it up him/herself; instead of being a cheeseburger with fries, it is a sushi box, salad, whatever. If the exec doesn’t have a PA, he/she can get a willing co-worker to do this, a spouse, or even just… Read more »
Holly
Holly
5 years 7 months ago
1. I would ask the CEO to make a short list of items she ate every day for a week. Then I’d swap come of her regular foods with a low-calorie or non-junky alternative. Example: a large bagel with cream cheese in the morning could be swapped with a slightly smaller whole wheat bagel, Starbucks grande double-shot mocha with whip could be replaced with a tall double-shot cappuccino without the whipped cream. These are small changes that require very little extra effort on behalf of the busy CEO, but will add up to her eventually losing 10 pounds. 2. What… Read more »
Justin Hill
Justin Hill
5 years 7 months ago
To help the executive lose weight: If I were managing the company I would set up a healthy meal program. It is completely optional. You may use it when ever you wish. I would designate small space or large space depending on the size of the organization. The space would be used to have a buffet table set up in the morning prior to start, lunch times, and evening times for the people who comute or have to work late. It has been proven that the more often you eat healthy foods throughout the day the more weight you lose.… Read more »
Jonathan Vaudreuil
5 years 7 months ago
1. Find one food item the exec is willing to eliminate (and not replace) in his daily diet. Eliminating just 250 calories per day will help someone lose 10 lbs in 20 weeks. Odds are if he needs to lose 10 lbs he’s eating a few things he can cut out to drop the weight, so he gets to decide what he eliminates. How easy is this? There are about 250 calories in the following foods: a small bag of chips, a 20 oz Coke, a 12 oz mocha or caramel latte (or two 12 oz cups of coffee with… Read more »
Justin
Justin
5 years 7 months ago
For #2, let’s assume the 26-year-old has a job and is paid via Direct Deposit. Split the DD so that part of it goes where it does now (presumably his/her checking account) and part of it goes to another savings account. That way, the money never enters the checking account and can’t be spent prior to being saved. Spending the saved money requires overcoming cognitive dissonance (“I’m trying to save $1500 by June, but here I am doing something that will prevent that from happening.”) as well as taking an extra step to make the transfer from savings to checking… Read more »
Dave
5 years 7 months ago
1. Is there a time limit to lose the 10 lbs? Anything related to exercise won’t produce the losses if he’s eating garbage; you simply don’t burn enough calories to offset the difference unless you’re an athlete/spend hours at the gym. See anything by Drew Baye or Robb Wolf for evidence to back this up. Therefore, it has to be based on diet. Willpower to eat well isn’t good enough either, you have to eliminate all bad food options for the busy exec. Therefore, I’d recommend removing ALL bad food from the exec’s home, replacing it entirely with a Paleo… Read more »
Suzie
Suzie
5 years 7 months ago
1. Get lunch & dinner delivered to the exec every day. Most execs always seem to end up grabbing something on the way to somewhere, or they tell the PA to get something. Get food delivered at 11.30am and 5pm and make sure it’s healthy food. (On a side note, I like graze.com for this as it posts me healthy food to work 🙂 ) 2. If getting the person to set up an automatic transfer is out, then I would send them a bill every month for $250 every month which they would pay like a normal bill… or… Read more »
Larry
Larry
5 years 7 months ago
!. For the busy executive, I would put him on a 16 hour fasting and 8 hour eating window, ala http://www.leangains.com/. This would entail him not eating anything after 8pm and starting to eat at 12pm the next day (pretty easy since for most the time he is sleeping). He could have coffee, diet soda, water, and a little cream in his coffee (not to exceed 50 calories). Basically, he’s skipping breakfast. Our exec needs to lose 10 pounds, that’s 35000 calories. The average breakfast is approximately 400 calories; so in about 70 days or approximately 2.5 months, he has… Read more »
Stephen
Stephen
5 years 7 months ago
I’ll take a crack 1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs This is my E1K/B1K business and I rely heavily on defaults (I actually lost 50 pounds doing so). A busy executive isn’t going to pre-prepare meals if that’s not already part of his routine. Take sucking time and exerting willpower out of the equation. Look at where he does his snacking, and change his environment there. Get rid of junk food in his office refrigerator (to make it even easier, have him ask his assistant to do it) and replace with healthier options that require zero preparation. Do the… Read more »
Asmita
Asmita
5 years 7 months ago
for #1. When I wanted to ensure that I got exercise during my busy grad school years, I simply didn’t buy the bus pass. This made me walk everyday by default. Since going in the bus would take almost same amount of time, the time to walk didn’t bother me. And whenever I saw a bus while walking, I immediately thought of the $2.50 I’ll throw away for going such a short distance, and kept walking. I would suggest something similar for the busy exec, depending on their mode of commute – change parking spot farther away/replace a transport option… Read more »
John
John
5 years 7 months ago

1. By default, drink water. (Instead of coke, pepsi, tea, juice, etc).

If someone asks what you’d like to drink: “Water would be fine.”

Remember, you’re only changing your DEFAULT behavior. You can drink other things, but your default choice would be water.

Steven
5 years 7 months ago
#1: Textbook answer would be to replace junk food with healthy snacks, create special menus for the executive when they go to restaurants, and create a poster tracking their weekly improvement so they can see their results. This gives them default choices *and* positive feedback. A more interesting answer: send them to a remote office of the company for a month: Delhi, Paris, etc. Would they be able to find their normal appetite when confronted with a default meal centered around chutney or mutton? (c/o Seth Roberts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shangri-La_Diet) #2: As a 25 year old, I opted in to a 401k… Read more »
K00kyKelly
5 years 7 months ago

I like the concept of #2, does mint actually let you do this?? Some credit card used to offer a service similar to the auto transfer in #2, but on a much smaller scale. It rounded up every $ spent on your CC and deposited the difference in a savings account. So you spend 2.25, 0.75 goes into savings.

#3 is terrible. I would resent these calls and whoever it called would also get annoyed when I didn’t actually want to talk to them right then.

Beth
5 years 7 months ago
1. Exec: New default? Have a bowl of soup for lunch every day. It is easy-to-find and full of nutritious vegetables. Bonus prize to speed weight loss one: Schedule a the 2-2:30 meeting slot in Outlook for a walk. If you meet then, it is done walking. Bonus prize two: Order a fruit basket for the office so that is the easiest snack to grab. 2. Savings: Set up direct deposit $65 from bi-monthly paycheck into savings account. I’d make it at an entirely separate bank from the primary account and make the login information difficult to member. Save. Forget… Read more »
Jan
Jan
5 years 7 months ago
There are a lot of things that any of these people can do to improve their situation. But since you ask for some defaults, here are my answers 1) The office kitchen is stocked with fruits, trail mix, water bottles, cans of soup and Lean Cuisine lunches. So any time the executive wants a snack, it is so easy to go the kitchen and pick up an apple or a handful of trail mix. If she wants something unhealthy like a bag of chips, she would have to venture out of the office, find a vending machine, have small bills… Read more »
Eric Kidwell
5 years 7 months ago

Jan, Do NOT, I repeat, DO Not pull money out of your Roth. I don’t know where you got your info, but it’s wrong. I advise people on investments and set up Roth IRAs all the time so I should know.

If you try to pull money out of your Roth IRA before age 59 and 1/2 you will pay both taxes and a 10% penalty. (Roughly 1/3 of your money gone). A quick google search will confirm what I’m talking about.

Good luck,
Eric

Frank Taeger
5 years 7 months ago
For a) That is a tricky one. At first, I would not do anything. I would have him write down EVERYTHING in one week that he eats and drinks. A simple journal, easy to handle without caring too much how manys grams x or y he eats or drinks are interesting to me. From then, I would actually go with exactly the same approach we go with c). The behaviour we would talk about is reduction and substitution. Unfortunately, this hardly works without actually educating the person a little bit, which is why we need the C) tactic. For b)… Read more »
Lesley
Lesley
5 years 7 months ago
I think the key here is to get people to do things they’re already doing and to take that one step further, as opposed to removing things, adding things, creating more work, etc. So my solutions would be… 1. Talk to the busy exec, spend a day with him to see what he does in a typical work day, including what he eats throughout the day, how he travels (car, subway, stairs, elevators, etc). If there’s any chance of integrating some form of exercise into what he’s already doing, then that would be the way to go. He doesn’t want… Read more »
Kurt Payne
Kurt Payne
5 years 7 months ago
1.) Lose weight – Change several defaults: * Default parking space to several miles away * Default option at a restaurant to “please put half of that in a to go container” * Change one default meal (probably breakfast) to a healthier default e.g. cereal -> yogurt/fruit * Default storage space for problem foods to back of the pantry where it’s hard to see / reach 2.) Save money – add a default weekly transfer from checking -> savings of $75 / week. Or talk with HR and ask for a direct deposit of $150 from each paycheck (assuming a… Read more »
Kate Kilian
Kate Kilian
5 years 7 months ago
A lot of the answers to # 3 explain potential methods for increased happiness and analyze/compare the theories of WHAT makes people happy, but very little about how to make that happiness a DEFAULT. Many people replied, “I’d have the person wake up and think about 3 good things that they have in life, and this action will increase their focus on positive things, thereby making them happier.” However, this is still an actionable item before which there is a choice: to think about the three good things, or to not think about the three good things? If the person… Read more »
LG
LG
5 years 7 months ago
1. Assuming the “busy executive” eats out a lot because he/she is busy, and assuming that this person gets help from assistants, etc., here’s what I might try: -Assistant schedules time for exercise for executive at the office with a trainer; this time is sacred and cannot be used for other business. -executive’s parking spot moved to the far end of the lot. -Catering at the office changed to more healthful options, input from exec is allowed, but has to be changed from this healthful option. -vending machines locked up (would be nice if you could make them only take… Read more »
Kevin
Kevin
5 years 7 months ago
I’m a newer reader of your blog, Ramit, but it seems (to me, at least) the answer to all three of these things is something you seem to be trying to impart on people as an invisible script in a lot of your posts. That being: “Spend effort/time/money on things you truly care about, while cutting costs/effort ruthlessly on the things you don’t.” To elaborate, if the busy executive picked just one meal he REALLY enjoyed and allowed himself it guilt-free, he could cut out all the other fatty or “crap” foods. If the 26 year old liked going to… Read more »
Sachit Gupta
5 years 7 months ago
1. Have a consultation with the executive, find out what kind of food they like [if they don’t like it, they won’t eat it], work with them to create a default healthy meal plan (moderate protein, low carbs and high good fats) [if they have some input and are invested in the process, they’re more likely to actually follow it]. MOST IMPORTANT – find him a service that cooks and delivers those foods to his desk! If the choice is between eating food sitting right in front of him, or going to find something else – he’s probably going to… Read more »
Helen
Helen
5 years 7 months ago
Hi Ramit, Right, as the question is about defaults. I need to ensure that the desired outcome is what each would naturally do if left to their own devices. 1) The executive’s default is rushing around, being dragged into meetings by colleagues and attending booked appointments. They always have a busy schedule and live and die by their diary/calendar. Simple answer would be to schedule exercise in their diary. Either with a personal trainer (who charges double for cancelling OR will physically drag them away from their desk) or even better, a good friend (who they would be less likely… Read more »
Susan
Susan
5 years 7 months ago

Helen, those are some great ideas. I’ll be incorporating some into my own life. Thanks!

Quantie
Quantie
5 years 7 months ago
Haven’t read the vast majority of the replies, so the following might be redundant. 1. To help an exec lose 10 lbs: (i) Assess the relative potential for improvement in the exec’s diet and exercise regimens. Specifically, check if USDA nutritional guidelines are being met and if exec is getting enough exercise (can measure effects of indirect exercise via VO2 or stress test). Check for any preexisting conditions, such as thyroid or eating disorders, that might be at least partially responsible for any excess weight. Schedule appointments for any medical issues, potentially dovetailing on preexisting lunch appointments near the medical… Read more »
Brian L
Brian L
5 years 7 months ago
1) Remove all diary, juices, grains and processed foods from the home. Exec should only have access to veggies, healthy proteins, nuts and limited fruits until the goal is met. 2) Remove ability to buy food during the work day. The menu for careless 26-year-old is now bag lunch and home brew coffee. Drive – lock purse/wallet in the trunk so no access to credit or cash, public transit – bring id, cell, and cash for transit but no credit cards or extra cash. 3) Hire a personal trainer to come to the home 3x a week. Give ’em a… Read more »
Amber
Amber
5 years 7 months ago
1) Sign up for a race (5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, triathlon, bike, whatever) with a person who is motivated. Workout before work. You feel bad standing a person up each day. By working out in the morning, you don’t feel like eating as much crap. Drink water. Many reasons why people feel hungry is because they are dehydrated. Get 7:30-8 hours of sleep a night. 2) Automate at the beginning of the month. Also, if there is “extra” money at the end of the month, transfer that out so you begin a new month with the same amount. 3) Sleep… Read more »
Joseph Dantes
5 years 7 months ago
I will answer questions 1 and 3 based on my knowledge and self-experimentation. For 2, I will simply regurgitate your answer. 1. Change the default diet. 4 food groups: fruit, potatoes, green vegetables, fresh unfrozen fish. Available willpower directed towards cooking and eating fresh fish only. Fallback cheating to fried potatoes and veggies. Fruit may be eaten on the way back from the grocery store but not taken into the home. When eating out, focus on meat. In general, meat is an acceptable substitute if fresh fish isn’t available. Lastly, set up a daily reminder to do a brief isometric… Read more »
Joseph Dantes
5 years 7 months ago

I regret reading the other commenters, because I learned nothing. Now I must reflect upon my superiority to avoid depression.

Swedy
Swedy
5 years 7 months ago
Haha, Joseph, I love the comment – easily the best so far (imo). It’s interesting to see all the invisible scripts at work. For instance, the “lose 10lbs” advice varies on the exercise/nutrition balance and nutrient composition based on what people believe… – remove processed foods and eat only protein…wait, make that calcium…hold on, try fruits and veggies instead – do keyboard curls and run a marathon…but no, I forgot, exercise is less effective than diet so don’t even bother Maybe the key to helping those people change their behavior has less to do with what you or I believe… Read more »
Marilyn
5 years 7 months ago
1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs *Ramit are you trying to lose wieght 😉 put a mini fridge under the desk stocked with only yummy healthy things. Assistant researches a list of healthy things. Executive takes 5 minutes to pick food she is excited to eat, Fridge get stocked. Kiwi, nuts, little cheese cubes, lil chocolate bars. Assistant sends an list of the foods once every 2 weeks so executive can change things up. Personally I found I keep my weight under control better if I graze throughout the day. At any meeting water bottles are set out in… Read more »
Quantie
Quantie
5 years 7 months ago
The questions/problems are so vague that it’s hard to exploit the specific preferences of the subjects–most of these answers resort to solutions that work *on average*, when individual-level variance here is crucial. Some people really don’t mind jogging once they get into it, and others want to avoid it at all cost. Some people need more time with friends, and others need to learn to enjoy their own company. Similarly, it’s hard to give non-generic financial recommendations to someone whose personal psychology we know virtually nothing about. Creativity arises in response to specific and seemingly intractable problems. These cases are… Read more »
Quantie
Quantie
5 years 7 months ago

That said, I think some of the solutions (e.g., an automatic savings plan and the endorphins and sense of self-mastery that many people obtain from regular exercise) are pretty robust to psychological vagaries. Sexy? No. They’re probably very effective, however.

How do you plan to measure ‘best’?

Joseph Dantes
5 years 7 months ago

In the words of MJ, “Maybe you’re just making excuses.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EalorZaTlI8

Steven
5 years 7 months ago

@Ramit are you referring to the stated or unstated limits “people inexplicably set”

K00kyKelly
5 years 7 months ago
1. a. Recruit someone the exec meets with every day to be a weight loss partner. Turn their meeting into a walking meeting. b. Hire a nutritionist who provides healthy snacks and meals during working hours. These need to both be available in their office and in to-go packs. Make eating healthier at the office easier than going out. I like Marilyn’s idea of the healthfully stocked fridge in thier office. c. Pick the 2 preferred items off the menu at restaurants business meetings are often held. Before the meeting the exec picks between those two options instead of browsing… Read more »
Joseph Dantes
5 years 7 months ago
The main obstacle to saving money in my life has been desperation. Not now, but in the past, when I was chronically ill and unhappy with my social status. Desperation shrinks your future time orientation and reduces willpower. Desperate hope forces hasty, overextending action. Obviously desperation is a difficult trait to remove with a couple of lines of advice. Its causes vary from person to person. The second major method of saving money is to moderate desire. This can be accomplished via stoic philosophy. Practicing periodically living on a minimal income is good way to discover all the ways you… Read more »
Jason W.
Jason W.
5 years 7 months ago

#1 – I would put him in a situation where everyone know what his weight loss goal is and then have him update, via twitter, his meal choices when out to eat with colleagues, etc. This would give him a group of followers for moral support, as well as a group of people to edge him along when he is weak.

Jason W.
Jason W.
5 years 7 months ago
Or put him charge of his office exercise program, and if there isn’t one existing, create it as the benefits are huge, especially in the illness & injury prevention department, as this is seen as a big issue in healthcare and insurance. He would be setting the example, put in a leadership position that he is used to, and would not want to lose face in front of his employees. Everyone would win in this situation. If the excuse that he doesn’t have time keeps coming up, he will eventually have to realize that he must make time to change,… Read more »
Justin
Justin
5 years 7 months ago
1. Prepare a weekly listing of healthy meals the executive will eat that week while also having someone (hired cook, wife, etc.) cook several of those meals in advance and have them in ready containers. I would also assemble a group of individuals that the executive works out with and have all of them work out together for about a month at a certain time to create the habit using social pressure. 2. Break down how much this individual will need to save each month, then create an automated money transfer to savings each month. Also tell friends about savings… Read more »
Jess
Jess
5 years 7 months ago

“hired cook, WIFE, etc.??” I guess we’re assuming the exec is a man, then? Do we get the husband to cook the meals if it’s a woman?

Wifecook or person who is willing to do whatever tedious jobs you’re too busy to do yourself

Jess
Jess
5 years 7 months ago

Sorry, my “does not equal” sign is not showing up here.

That should be “wife does not equal cook…etc.”

Joseph Dantes
5 years 7 months ago

Congratulations, Jess. In four (4) sentences you managed to demonstrate:
1. Off-topic self-righteous indignation
2. Abject reading comprehension failure

Under the hypocritical guise of a a quixotic crusade against accurate generalization that if implemented would end rational thought, you are actually kvetching in the name of a mythical equality which you wrongly equate with fairness.

Thanks for playing passive-aggressive speech police.

K00kyKelly
5 years 7 months ago
@Joseph – First, how was that passive aggressive at all? Bitter, yes. Passive aggressive, no. Secondly, you’ve got no place to talk about self-righteous indignation. Good job with the shaming. She makes a good point about people’s invisible scripts. Women have a lot of disadvantages when it comes to putting their careers first. Most men are not willing to stay at home and support their wives by cooking, cleaning, managing the house, and caring for the kids. Many career women end up hiring people to take on these tasks. They couldn’t compete with the men in their office who have… Read more »
A-ron
A-ron
5 years 7 months ago

1) Place a shame sign around his neck, like a picture of his naked fat ass, and force him to wear it until he lost the weight.
2) Put her/him on the street and pimp her/him out till she makes the $1500.
3) Allow them to simply be in my presence, everyone’s dream come true.

Think twice before you dismiss these strategies as effective.

Brandon
Brandon
5 years 7 months ago

Can’t engineer behavioral change until I GET INSIDE THE CLIENTS HEAD!! Insufficient data to answer this question.

Greg B
Greg B
5 years 7 months ago
Some of the comments above are pretty good ideas using the concept of setting up defaults. I won’t repeat some of the things for #2 and #3 because I think suggestions for direct dep. savings and the focus on gratitude is pretty much spot on. But I haven’t been satisfied with anyone’s suggestion for #1, too much focus on getting someone else to position healthy snacks, when that won’t stop the busy exec from attacking the spinach dip, whiskey or beer at the zillion receptions they have to attend, or too much focus on getting them to change behavior and… Read more »
Joseph Dantes
5 years 7 months ago
I don’t necessarily buy all this talk about practicing gratitude and positive thinking. In my experience, there’s a serious danger of psychic whiplash. Deliberately thinking in one way invites the opposite thought. Practicing gratitude reminds you of how little you have relative to your ambitions. Positive thinking starts a repressed subconscious current of negative thought. Scratch that, I’m not skeptical. I KNOW those approaches are wrong. Gratitude takes you out of the present moment by focusing you on the past. That creates unhappiness automatically. Positive thinking involves judgment and evaluation, which also destroy the enjoyment of the present moment, same… Read more »
Yanna
Yanna
5 years 7 months ago

Optimism and positivity can be cultivated. If a pattern of self defeating thoughts, feelings and/or behaviors exists, aligning subconscious beliefs and motivations with conscious desires using hypnosis is an effective option.

MP
MP
5 years 7 months ago

Relocate the executive so he lives within walking distance of his office. Ie I live in Manhattan and he could live in Tribeca and walk to work on Wall Street.

Automate savings.

I’m not religious but convert the guy to a religion. I’m pretty sure that this makes people happy. again, I’m an atheist.

Jay
Jay
5 years 7 months ago

1. Have him join fatbet.com and compete with one of his coworkers (this would also nudge him towards measuring and recording his weight daily)

2. Have him automate sending $100 per month to his savings account

3. Have him set aside a certain time every day to write down or tell a close friend or partner 5 things he is grateful for and visualize them (ask him to spend his day noticing things to add to his list for that day)

Kathrine S.
Kathrine S.
5 years 7 months ago
Hi, Ramit. I’m fairly new to your blog and all of your jazz, but I thought I’d give this a shot to see what I’ve learned from spending some time both reading and discussing your strategies with the people I’m around all the time. 1. I think this is one of those weird situations, like on a standardized test, where I would say “need more information”. Does he want to lose the weight for good, or is he doing it just to prove he can do it? How busy? Is he rich enough to buy into bad ideas, or wise… Read more »
Colin
5 years 7 months ago

1. Amutate an arm. Let them chose which one.
2. Hijack their account and set aside the required monthly amount.
3. Force them to spend their money on experiences rather than on things. Ask them before and aferwards how happy they feel.

Simples!

Jess
Jess
5 years 7 months ago
Just a comment on #1, since everyone seems to be fixated on getting the busy exec to eat healthy and/or exercise. The goal is not to get the exec to eat healthy; it’s about getting the exec to lose 10 lbs. Big difference – this is about simple math. Here’s how I lost 30 lbs fast by going on what I call the Wendy’s diet (not particularly healthy, but effective): I decided I would limit myself to 1500 calories per day – this meant maximum 500 calories per meal. I started with a meal replacement shake for breakfast (easy, since… Read more »
Tim Rosanelli
5 years 7 months ago
#1…The default is in our skull. Every method will fail until the executive changes the way he thinks about healthy eating and fitness. I’ve been in the fitness industry for many years and found that people that easily maintain a healthy weight think about food and exercise totally different, just like how a wealthy person thinks about money is totally different. People who eat extremely healthy do it because they love eating wholesome food. I personally eat healthful foods because I like how I feel when I eat them ~ great energy level throughout the day and a clearer, calmer… Read more »
Tim Rosanelli
5 years 7 months ago
Okay, I separated this comment from the last because they were two separate thoughts. For #1 to lose 10 lbs… * Drink a glass of water 10 minutes before you eat or have a snack. Most people eat three meals and about three snacks per day so that 6 glasses of water. There is so many reasons that this works… 80% of Americans suffer from symptoms of dehydration according to an army study (solve the problem of afternoon headaches and people mistake dehydration for hunger), it boosts your metabolism, it makes you feel full during the meal quicker, it aids… Read more »
Craig Rodrigues
Craig Rodrigues
5 years 7 months ago
I wasn’t panning on trying this, but everyone seemed to have very hard ideas for #1 1. Tell the executive to drink only water/coffee (black)/tea. I’d get him a water bottle and let him have at it. This is a very easy change which in an average American eliminates a ton of calories effortlessly. 2. Have the 26 year old have a few hundred dollars automatically drafted into an ING account each month. Tell him at the end of 6 months he can spend 1/3 of the money he’s saved on anything he wants. Just getting him to start the… Read more »
Alee
Alee
5 years 7 months ago
1) Find a spot along his route where he or she can make it a routine to walk- for example, parking farther from the office building or getting off one stop sooner on the train before the office. Purchasing pre-made snacks that do not require refrigeration, such as packets of almonds or raisins, and leaving them in the desk at work or in the car for the inevitable mid-day hunger attack- decrease the need to leave the work area to go to a vending machine where there’s a greater chance to make choices that take the executive farther away from… Read more »
Yanna
Yanna
5 years 7 months ago
#3 is the most interesting. Lack of happiness can result from factors ranging from Vitamin D deficiency to habitual negative thoughts to an unbalanced lifestyle to sleep apnea to inherited mental disease. Suggested Defaults: 1. Vitamin D Supplementation (Cod Liver or Krill Oil Recommended). This has been demonstrated to alleviate dysthymia and depression over a 12 week period. Optional winter default: full spectrum light exposure – replace light bulbs at home, in the office desk fixture. 2. Habitual Half Smile Expression (Proven to Promote the Release of “Happy” Neurotransmitters). Half smiling for less than a minute can cause measurable changes… Read more »
Ka
Ka
5 years 7 months ago
1. Deliver a big portion of a high-fiber breakfast to the busy executive’s desk every morning. Food must be directly placed on the desk so the exec will eat it daily. Reason it works: • Busy Executive will not have time to exercise, thus we must concentrate on diet • Busy Executive will have lunch and/or dinner with clients and/or business associates at restaurants. Being with others in a social setting like this makes dietary changes VERY difficult. Therefore, breakfast is the easiest meal to change. Luckily, it’s also the most important meal of the day. • Eating breakfast means… Read more »
Maxime
5 years 7 months ago
Hi Ramit, 1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs a) Ask the executive’s nutritionist to create an adapted nutrition plan. This means specific aliments, quantity and frequency for the next 2 months b) Make the executive’s assistant actually cook the meals according to the plan. c) The assistant avoids any meetings at lunch time and brings the lunch to his boss. d) The executive is not aware that his assistant blocks meetings so he doesn’t feel he is changing anything. This can vary depending on how this executive works and lives. 2. Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his… Read more »
Patrick S
Patrick S
5 years 7 months ago
What’s in his schedule? Must he do everything? Can he delegate specific tasks to free up time? How does he get to work? Could he cycle there? Is he totally career focussed? Maybe his boss could make it an objective to complete in a specific time-frame? Does the careless 26-year-old want to save any money? If he doesn’t, ask what he wants to spend his money on? What has he spent in the last six months and what does he desire now? Does he still use what he spent his money on? Am I in the same boat? Shall we… Read more »
Dave
Dave
5 years 7 months ago

For the exec, no drinking alcohol for any reason. Have is assistant order healthy salad every work day.

For the 26 year old, sell the car and take the bus or train. He is probably too careless to own and drive a car.

For happiness, volunteer to help someone in need every day for a week. Every morning, list what they are grateful for.

Joseph Dantes
5 years 7 months ago
I’d more easily believe that helping others makes people think they’re happy, than that it provides lasting happiness. Especially when it comes with an opportunity cost for working on your own status. And I definitely believe that practicing gratitude for the present moment is vastly superior to writing down gratitude lists. Here’s one way to permanently increase your happiness: “The hedonic treadmill describes the process where we all eventually adapt to a pleasurable event like winning the lottery. Over time, the pleasure we get from it will decrease. With two exceptions. … Women who get breast implants never tire of… Read more »
lucinda
lucinda
5 years 7 months ago

1. Get the busy exec a stand up desk
2. Set up direct deposit for the 26 year old
3. Tell the person about targeted spending where you spend your money on what you care about/

Casey Rafter
Casey Rafter
5 years 7 months ago
I will personally pay the overweight 26-year-old workaholic $1500 cash to allow me to spend 30 minutes a week with him for the next 6 months. I am assuming he makes $250k a year to qualify his exec status, which would make his additional time worthwhile. The executive must operate under one condition… He must allow me to track his progress on a facebook page that will be made public to his 3 best looking ex-girlfriends. He is a rich, successful 26 year old, so a minimum of 3 ex’s is really not that big of a stretch for anyone.… Read more »
Joseph Dantes
5 years 7 months ago

That would be the best answer if it had anything to do with changing defaults.

DanP
DanP
5 years 7 months ago
1) Delivery of a day’s worth of food in the morning, plus all snacks. I’m too busy to make food, and i dont have time to waste going go the gym, or doing a run. My day is busy enough, im not going to bother taking stares, or walk to work, or any nonsense like that. 2) Set up a direct deposit into an ING savings account. It will get transfered into my savings account the day i get paid. I dont have to worry about it, and i probably wont even notice the money is gone. 3) Measureable? Can… Read more »
David
5 years 7 months ago
Let’s say I hire you to change the following behaviors: 1.Help a busy executive lose 10lbs 2.Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his savings account by June 3.Help someone feel measurably happier How would you do it using defaults? 1. Biggest Loser contest in the workplace. If everyone is losing weight, the default in the workplace is having fun about losing weight. The executive would feel out of place if they weren’t competing with the rest of their co-workers. To avoid employees being overwhelmed to the point of not wanting to do it, only promote small simple ways to… Read more »
Gary
Gary
5 years 7 months ago
Let’s say you hire me as a coach to change the following behaviors: 1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs Losing 10lbs is simple but changing behavior is difficult, which is why it’s important to use defaults. The entire purpose of using defaults is so that any actual thinking about behavior change is eliminated. As a coach, I would devise an individual meal plan for the executive that would lead to the loss of 10 lbs by controlling caloric intake. This meal plan would include the following: exactly when to eat meals and the content of the meal. And to… Read more »
Juliana
Juliana
5 years 7 months ago
1) The busy exec needs to exercise more and eat better in ways that are arranged for him/her, because busy execs have underlings/minions/consultants to take care of many things that we do for ourselves. If those people are updated, they can do the work of controlling what the exec eats and how much they exercise. The exec’s PA should update their daily schedule to get more time in at the gym and have their personal trainer work up new training patterns to jump-start weight loss. They also need to remove temptation, since that’s the diet downfall. Whoever does their grocery… Read more »
DanP
DanP
5 years 7 months ago
I think one of the things we’re all missing is by “default” Having the exec go to the gym isn’t default, that requries will power. Having him change his eating habits, again will power. The point of the HIV story is that when ppl aren’t given the choice, they do what’s best for them automatically. Same thing with Ramit’s previous example of people that are automatically put into work savings plan with a match and save type situation. It’s by default that they are put into these so they don’t bother to ever cancel. Telling the exec to eat less,… Read more »
A.
A.
5 years 7 months ago
The new default is to choose either a morning, lunch, after work or evening for a workout session with a personal trainer 3 times a week. Have your scheduling assistant ensure that you have no meetings/obligations scheduled during this time and have the personal trainer pick you up/ meet you at your location. Select for your undergarments biker shorts and a workout t or cami, and where a adjustable sports bra under your regular bra, so that you can simply adjust it into position after removing professional clothing and add a workout vest preloaded with ipod and sweats/wind shorts if… Read more »
Wayne
Wayne
5 years 7 months ago
Implement one-time, irreversible (or not easily reversible) changes that will get the individuals close to reaching their goals alone. 1. Busy Exec–find the “repeat offender” foods that account for the most caloric intake, and instruct housekeeper, personal shopper, or whomever to not purchase those foods. The exec would have to “opt-out” by affirmatively telling the grocery shopper in the family to buy those foods. 2. Student–draft a detailed budget and adhere to a strict allowance. In other words, pay for all necessities automatically, and pay for all discretionary expenses out of a cash allowance granted once per week. Once the… Read more »
thebaron
thebaron
5 years 7 months ago
Re #1: i have a job that keeps me very busy. i normally order breakfast, lunch and dinner at the office. (no, i don’t cook. i don’t enjoy cooking, so i won’t prepare meals before hand.) living such a sedentary lifestyle, i put on a lot of weight. i find the prepackaged diet foods are so convenient that they work. i stock the office fridge with the stuff, and it’s even more convenient than ordering out. some of my coworkers signed up for the diet meals that they deliver right to the office or their home.
thebaron
thebaron
5 years 7 months ago

i just wanted to add that people here seem to have really strange views about being a busy executive.

Lola
Lola
5 years 7 months ago
1. Busy executive: Give him the opt-in vs opt-out choice. Opt-in: I’d promise, in writing, to have wild sex with him if he loses 10 pounds within two weeks. Opt-out: I’d seduce him, secretly videotape it, and later promise to send the tape to their wife if they don’t lose those 10 pounds within two weeks. (Shorter time-lines seem to work better with people, thus the two weeks.) 2. Careless 26 year old: Give them a tough love opt-out choice: Opt-out: hire someone to beat them up, and threaten them that they will be beat up regularly every Friday until… Read more »
Lola
Lola
5 years 7 months ago

I meant – (They would NOT know one detail – the ‘vitamins’ would be Paxil )

Jonathan Atkins
5 years 7 months ago

1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs
Prepackage meals for on the goal and precook meals for at home
2. Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his savings account by June
Sell video games, dvds, books, and unused goods; automate savings
3. Help someone feel measurably happier
Daily gratitude list, plenty of rest, and eat well

matt
matt
5 years 7 months ago

1-set up a service to deliver healthy meals to the exec at the desired time of day. He would still be free to eat whatever he wants, but the healthy meal would be the default.

2-set up an automatic draft for them.

3-introduce a minor irritant into their life (colder rooms, noisy neighbors, etc.), then remove it once they adjust to it

Chris hugh
5 years 7 months ago
1) busy exec — have her sit on her exercise bike every night while she watches tv. No requirement to ride it, just sit on it. She’ll either ride it or limit her tv watching, probably both. Also, set a timer and eat a high protein sandwich when it goes off every day at 3 pm. This will forestall binge/tiredness eating in the afternoon. 2) careless student — automatic savings, just set it up with the bank, assuming the kid will only spend what’s in his checking account. Quit going to star bucks. That’ll save $360 or so over six… Read more »
Tim Rosanelli
5 years 7 months ago
#1 – I don’t know if this is considered an opt-in option but it will help the exec optimize his time. Implement a 20 minute walking meeting first thing in the morning with his immediate staff. The exec should do this on an empty stomach after drinking a cup of coffee (this will optimize fat burning). After the walk, he should eat a high protein breakfast. #2 – I have a son that is 25 years old. If I want him to do anything like this, I sit him down at the computer when he visits and ask him to… Read more »
Kevin M
Kevin M
5 years 7 months ago
1) Busy executive – he should pay healthier co-workers to be around him (go to lunch, take him on afternoon walks, whatever), teaching him good habits. Studies show who you associate with has an effect on your health: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/magazine/13contagion-t.html?pagewanted=1 It’s a win/win for both parties – the exec loses weight, the co-workers get paid and earn brownie points with the boss. 2) Careless 26 year old – take a 2 prong approach. First, go to his/her place and help him find stuff to sell to get a jump-start on the $1,500 goal (a quick win). Offer to sell the stuff… Read more »
Jeremy Johnson
5 years 7 months ago
1: Help a busy executive lose 10 lbs. –> I would tell the executive that their family and business are dependent on them losing the weight. Without doing so, the risk of an early death and not seeing the family grow up will overshadow the accomplishments the executive has achieved. I’d tell them that the solution is very simple, they will just be part of a new meal and gym plan that will be part of their schedule. The executive is now part of a special meal plan. I’d crunch the numbers and see the executive’s recommended caloric intake and… Read more »
Matt
Matt
5 years 7 months ago
Jeremy, I hate to only criticize here, but I don’t hate it enough to restrain myself. I can’t tell if you’re serious or not. While your methods may work for a select group of individuals, Ramit asked how to use psychological defaults to change behaviors, not scared straight tactics. Scaring people and threats don’t make it very far and could even hurt. When people are overwhelmed they tend to take no action at all. Do you think overweight people simply don’t know that being overweight can lead to an early death? You say that with the opt-out paperwork there is… Read more »
Greg B
Greg B
5 years 7 months ago

Ramit, I’m really amazed at how many people don’t get the concept. Set up a default. Don’t pay someone to do something. Why does anyone think a busy exec will lose 10lbs after you set up even more meetings in his calendar/restrict her food intake/set up gym time? None of that will happen. Business will intrude. Reception food will intrude.

Matt
Matt
5 years 7 months ago
My shot, a few days late: 1. Have the exec select certain healthy meals/snacks that appeal to him/her. The meals and snacks will be delivered at certain times. The exec has the option to opt out of the meal delivery 1-2 hours before. This provides an opt-out situation where technically the exec can eat whatever he/she wants but the default is to have the healthy food delivered. For burning more calories the standing desk option works as a default but they need an option of chairs if someone comes to their office for a meeting. You can also fire-bomb their… Read more »
Joseph Dantes
5 years 7 months ago
Matt, congrats on actually understanding the question. I think in general home visit psychiatry is a seriously bad idea, particularly for the psychiatrist. May I again suggest my happiness default solution: Management of recurring negative thoughts and emotions are a major problem in mental health and general happiness. May I again recommend setting a new default psychological behavior – when hit by a wave of this type, whether it be loss, shame, embarrassment, anxiety, regret, whatever – simply counter by immediately basking in a feeling of contemptuous superiority towards any other parties involved, however peripherally. It is the best anaesthetic… Read more »
Matt
Matt
5 years 7 months ago

Joseph: for the record, I wasn’t really serious about the home visit. It was more an unrealistic stretch to take the “default” theme farther.

As for “basking in a feeling of contemptuous superiority”: judging from your comments here you certainly practice what you preach, eh? (not an insult, just an observation)

robert
robert
5 years 7 months ago
1. busy executive. Tell person they have a certain day in which to lose the 10 lbs. If they don’t, they have to take time off until they accomplish the weight goal. Your first reaction is that this would be awesome… but probably not to a busy executive. It could present as an interesting psychological dilemma in many ways (which I could explain more if someone wants me to) and chances are they will find a way to meet this goal by themselves. You won’t even have to tell them how to do it. 2. 26 year old. I suppose… Read more »
Casey Rafter
Casey Rafter
5 years 7 months ago
I disagree with about 95% of the posters’ interpretation of utilizing psychological defaults to engineer behavioral change. The point of this exercise is to reach the desired goals without adding an additional requirement to the subject that is unlikely to be fulfilled. Focus on the ends and not the means. Automation is merely one solution for engineering behavioral change. It reduces the amount of decisions required to reach a final outcome and can be used to manipulate the perceived importance of an event. Our psychological defaults are the manners in which we as individuals tend to react when presented with… Read more »
K00kyKelly
5 years 7 months ago
I’m not exactly sure what Casey is trying to say either, but it reminded me of something I was thinking about related to defaults. One thing Ramit doesn’t mention in the post is that there are two kinds of defaults: internal and external. Internal defaults are the way you always do things. For example on the drinks front my internal defaults are water or wine. At a restaurant I always ask for water. I wouldn’t really consider it a choice at this point… its just what I always do. In a going out situation if someone hasn’t already decided to… Read more »
Hilary
Hilary
5 years 7 months ago
Do 1 & 2 for them. 1. Explain that fat loss is a temporary state (you wont be on a diet forever, let’s get in and out asap) and then feed the executive their meals on my schedule so they don’t even need to make the decision to eat. Remove the temptation by taking it out her hands and make it opt-less. 2. Set up the automatic withdrawal for them and tell them the tax laws changed. Surprise them with “this is how you save money” in June. 3. Ask person to write down their happiness level on a scale… Read more »
Kate
Kate
5 years 7 months ago
1. Break the elevator in the executive’s building so its out of commission for a a couple weeks. Then, when it is repaired make it go SUPER slow and play obnoxious pretentious music, much more painful and out of the way than walking up the stairs… 2. Set up automatic deposits into savings account to happen as soon as the paycheck is received. Cut up the credit cards; only debit cards allowed. 3. Tilt their full sized mirror up a little (instead of flat against the wall) and change the power-saving blue light bulbs to the more flattering LED variety… Read more »
Wayne D
Wayne D
5 years 7 months ago
1: Get the executive to fill a two litre bottle of water before bed and leave it beside their briefcase/laptop bag and then go to bed as normal. Get the executive to wake up every day 25 minutes earlier, have a glass of water and then do cardio for the first 20 minutes after they wakes up. This is exercise will burn calories, it will also speed up their metabolism for the day and can become part of his/her routine. No matter how busy you are you can always sleep 25 minutes less and the health gains from exercise will… Read more »
Treacle
5 years 7 months ago
Case 1: If losing weight was as easy as *knowing* the right thing to do, everyone would be thin. Execs are busy people,and I imagine s/he has more immediate things to think about than those last 10 pounds. So I would make it easy for him not to think about it. If the exec has a chef/personal cook/meal delivery service, talk with him or her about the meals they’re preparing and make sure they’re low calorie. If the exec’s partner or spouse is in charge of meals, talk with them about changing what’s made for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If… Read more »
Jenny Ji
Jenny Ji
5 years 7 months ago
1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs Work at a standing/treadmill desk, it’s proven to be a healthier alternative to most office chairs and the sudden change will burn more calories. I would put conspicuous weights in the office as well, so he/she can take a few minutes to lift in between meetings or whatever. 2. Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his savings account by June If the 26 year old has their own home, I’d suggest to rent out a room and put that money in a separate account that they can’t touch. Otherwise, I’d tell him… Read more »
Kate
Kate
5 years 7 months ago

Sorry. I would like to make 2 more explicit.

2. Go to http://home.ingdirect.com/index.html. Click “View my Account”. Click “Open an Account” on the left. Under Orange Savings Account, click “Open Now”. Follow the instructions to open the account.

Next, log in to the account. Click on your account nickname. Click the link that says “Direct Deposit form for this account”. Fill out the form. If our 26-year-old makes $60,000/year, he’ll need to put “5% of paycheck” to save $1500 in 6 months. Then he needs to print and give the form to his employer. DONE.

KillerQueen
KillerQueen
5 years 7 months ago
1.) Each month, the company automatically takes $ XXX out of each executive’s paycheck to fund a personal dietitian/cook for them. The dietitian/cook prepares three healthy low-calorie meals a day for the executives and delivers to their office. The meals are tailored to their health needs and weight loss goals. Also, the company charges a $ X gym maintenance fee to maintain the gym on-site. The company executive has an incentive to take advantage of these service and not waste money on services he/she does not use. There is only an option to opt-out of the meal plan, but not… Read more »
Joshua Skaja
5 years 7 months ago
Since we’re trying to change defaults (and not just suggest new behaviors to adopt): #1 – Get a dog. Foster if you can’t commit. Now you’re suddenly responsible for a creature that needs two long walks each day. or #1 Make a pact with someone to give up alcohol for 30 days (or make it a competition to see who can go longest). I do it every January. It’s really not that hard, and I’m a drunk. #2 Get a savings account at a different bank than your primary. Don’t set up the online banking. Not seeing the money is… Read more »
Katie M
Katie M
5 years 7 months ago
Hey Ramit, Here goes. Thanks for the brain fodder. To lose weight, this busy executive needs to set up defaults related to a) energy he takes in, and b) energy he expends. For controlling energy he takes in, you can set up a default situation that makes it difficult to access foods that can sabatoge his effort to eat fewer calories. So get rid of junk in his office, and have his secretary arrange for fresh chopped fruit delivery each morning instead. Also ask his secretary to automatically order him a healthy meal for lunch each day unless he opts… Read more »
Ryan
5 years 7 months ago

1. Have the busy exec eliminate only full calorie soda from his diet.

2. Have the 26 year old sell one rarely used possession every Sunday on ebay for the next few months.

3. Have the unhappy person commit to volunteer at an animal shelter once per week for a month.

Mike
Mike
5 years 7 months ago

1. Skip lunch every Mon, Wed, Fri.
This is a black and white way to eat less calories overall and requires no extra willpower the rest of the week.

2. Set up auto transfer to savings/investment account after each paycheck.

3. I think most people’s hapiness is heavily influenced by how they perceive themselves relative to those around them. So, to improve hapiness by default, you could change their environment so that they are more wealthy, successful, better looking, etc. when compared to their peers.

Zach
5 years 7 months ago
Great article. The opt in vs. opt out is really tweaking my brain. It makes total sense! It is easier for people to do nothing (have the 401k automatically set up) rather than do something (filling it out at a later dateor cancel out of a 401k plan)! Here is my shot about using opt out on these situations. 1. Helping a busy executive lose 10 lbs. He is a busy executive. He has his schedule planned out from morning to night. Take a good look at the schedule and plan his workouts in his day. Make it an automatic… Read more »
Vijay
5 years 7 months ago
1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs If he has to lose that in 2 weeks, I’ll put him on the No carb diet for 2 weeks. No bread, no pasta, no rice, no wheat for 2 weeks. Done Deal…and then hand him the 4 hour body book 🙂 2. Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his savings account by June 1) open a free ING account and set it to automatically withdraw 100$ every pay check from his checking account. 2)Collect all the “stuff” and put it up on ebay or craigslist. Ebay currently has a promotion wherein… Read more »
Juliana
Juliana
5 years 7 months ago
Randomly pick a girl in the metro and tell her that she has the most beautiful smile, eyes, bag 🙂 . She’ll have a bounce in her step and a smile on her lips all through the day. This is not a good idea. Some women may feel complimented (but no one I know ever has) but others will feel threatened (that’s every woman on the metro). The creepy dudes on the train who harass you and slide all up in your personal space and then try to follow you when you get off start off by saying something like… Read more »
Elizabeth
5 years 7 months ago

#3: They should default to smiling. Set up their email and phone to give them reminders periodically throughout the day — SMILE! It will gradually become their natural expression and improve their baseline happiness. (It’s not only physiological, although it is that; others will also treat them better.)

Jeff Sepp
5 years 7 months ago

1), 2), 3) challenge all of them by either inspiring them to make the changes themselves or telling them to prove you wrong.

I personally changed my life by identifying people who had qualities that I wanted and set about to show myself that anything is possible if I want it bad enough. Competition is a huge motivation.

GC
GC
5 years 7 months ago
1. for the busy exec, set up an account with a diet food prep company that will deliver fresh meals, 2-3 meals per day for two weeks. Ask exec to use only stairs and get off the metro one stop earlier if possible or park further away from the office building. 2. for the young person who needs to save money, I would set up an online savings account and set it to withdraw $70 on a weekly basis or $140 immediately after each payday biweekly. I would also set up his/her checking account to send bill payments in a… Read more »
Attila
Attila
5 years 7 months ago

Busy Exec: Photoshop his picture into a slimmer and nicer version. set it up as his desktop wallpaper, put it up on his fridge. He needs to change his inner view of how he looks and he’ll correct by himself

Young person: setup automatic saving plan which draws the money up-front from his paycheck.

Unhappy person: sign him up to your newsletter. Ought to change him for better wouldn’t you agree?

cheers,
Attila

Stephen
Stephen
5 years 7 months ago
This is the first time I have been on this site and it is very interesting. I always have lots of ideas and looking and without reading previous posts my suggestions would be to keep things simple. 1) Portion control is key – anything over 3% fat should go or be limited to a small amount each day. No alcohol for the first week and portions sizes can increase slowly each week time as metabolism speeds up. A little more exercise is needed so walk/cycle to work or park further away and walk a bit. Leaving the office at lunch… Read more »
Dave
Dave
5 years 7 months ago
I think for all of these we need to do as Ramit says and identify the big wins. And in this case, the easy ones are needed. Scenario 1. The exec eats on the go. Big wins are 1. reduce hidden calories that come with eating out (i.e. fried or baked food). 2. reduce junk food consumption by using an invisible barrier. For reducing hidden calories, there’s many companies/people who will make meals for a week that can be put in the fridge. They’re great and cheaper than eating out. They’ll charge your credit card and deliver the food in… Read more »
Caitlin M.
Caitlin M.
5 years 7 months ago
I would ask the exec to get on a treadmill (in his office that the company has paid for that he has been told to use only when checking e-mails and using the phone) while making personal and uplifting phone calls including but not limited to the young intern he or she has taken under his or her wing. The young intern’s job is keep him in touch with friends/family/pets and gets a modest income, including required weekly financial and goal setting phone sessions with the exec (he or she admires for being cool but together, even if a little… Read more »
gina
gina
5 years 7 months ago
I see a lot of good suggestions but it seems that many people are missing the point of the article – remove the need for willpower or opting in vs. opt out. 1. Exec – a. hold meetings standing up. b. hold breakfast, lunch, or dinner meetings that are catered with healthy food only c. require executive meeting be held at a gym twice a week. 2. Careless Kid – $1500 by June a. Do all the work to setup a transfer from checking to a savings account in another bank. Put the paper in front of the kid, make… Read more »
elana
elana
5 years 7 months ago
Help a busy executive lose 10lbs Set up a treadmill outside his bedroom in a locked room that will only be unlocked by his watchfull housemaid after half an hour of exercise after getting up from bed each morning. She will free him with a protein shake. On weekends, or just Sunday, an organized taxi will take him to the river for kayaking. Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his savings account by June Ask his employer to withold $250 a month in pay until June – no exceptions. Help someone feel measurably happier Organize a clown call every… Read more »
dart
5 years 7 months ago

This is really opening my mind to come up with solutions with my dog training business. My process (ala dog whisperer) involves changing habits and attitudes of owner first and it works very well with those who are desperate to have a better dog.

But with dog owners who are not yet desparate, even if I provide them with all the information and show them my process works they do not follow through.

Im thinking of automatically enrolling them to my weekly dog tips and reminders.

Brian
Brian
5 years 7 months ago
Eh, what the heck? I’ll throw in my 2 cents. For each of these challenges, we’re not given all the information (for example, is the 26 year old employed? What are his monthly expenses? etc.) So I’ll say what I assume the defaults are and how I would change them. I assume that by default, the exec has a personal chauffer drive her to the office, meetings with clients, then home to her mansion. By default she overeats unhealthy food at expensive restaurants every day. She has a poor diet and a lack of exercise. Originally, she would have to… Read more »
Lucille Morgan
Lucille Morgan
5 years 7 months ago

Busy executive: needs to get less busy eg. edit / simplify life – take some thinking time and ditch the car!

Careless spendthrift – invest in raising their self esteem; spenders are usually insecure; focus on abundance

To be happier all you need to understand is that need is an illusion – no one needs anything if they harness the power within

Zach B
Zach B
5 years 7 months ago

Stop thinking so much – ride your bike to work every day.

Laurel
Laurel
5 years 7 months ago
1. For the busy executive, I would consult with his wife. She is likely the nutritional gatekeeper in the home. The first thing to do is send her shopping for new dishes- smaller plates, tall slender glasses… elegant stuff. People unconsciously eat until the food is gone, so that problem is mitigated with smaller plates (and hence smaller portions.) Likewise, I would tear up the Costco membership, with the understanding that larger packages means more quantity cooked and eaten. (Yeah, can’t let that giant tub of Red Vines go to waste!) And since we’re likely talking about a Silicon Valley… Read more »
Anonie
Anonie
5 years 7 months ago

It freaking breaks my heart that you assume the executive is a married male.

Laurel
Laurel
5 years 7 months ago

Why a broken heart? It’s simple probability. Are you equally upset that I put him in Silicon Valley? (Or should I be upset that it’s obviously a woman that needs to lose 10 lbs?)

Edwin
Edwin
5 years 7 months ago
1. For the busy executive: assuming that the executive is going to make some of the effort: Some things I would introduce into their life… weighted bracelets and anklets. Schedule conference calls in the morning and use a treadmill while on the call. I find that I think much better when my legs are moving! Introduce smarter eating. Five snacks a day instead of three meals. Cereals and carbs in the morning, more protein and veggies and fruits as the day progresses. Only salad after 7.00. Set a water alarm every two hours and down a glass of water. all… Read more »
Eddie Quiñones
Eddie Quiñones
5 years 7 months ago

1. Switch to black coffee, unsweetened (or unsweetened tea).
2. Daily ritual: Pack lunch & brew (black unsweetened!) coffee at home into a thermos. (Can save almost $10 daily, net)
3. Switch Alarm Clock (e.g., using AlarmClockPro) and Ringtone to favorite songs.

Diana
Diana
5 years 7 months ago
Ask exec Ed and careless Cal about their two major pitfalls in reaching the goals that will make them happy. Focus on those two things. Effortless defaults: automate item #1 (e.g. exec Ed is too busy for exercise; careless Cal is careless with spending). Swap Ed’s desk chair for an exercise ball! (burn 200 calories more/day = drop 10lbs in ~175 days. Put an exercise ball in Ed’s living room too!). Automatically move a portion of Cal’s monthly/biweekly pay (~$250/month, totaling $1500 by June) to a special savings account (labeled the goal’s name). Add minimal effort if you’re daring: minimize… Read more »
Susan
Susan
5 years 7 months ago
Come on, guys. This is the most discouraging thread. Barely 5% of the respondents, if that, are actually doing what Ramit asked – change behaviour using *defaults*. How the fuck is “change the way you eat” using defaults? If *I* have to change something – writing in a gratitude journal, or getting a new job, then that relies on will power, which is just what Ramit is trying to get AWAY from. Example: @Edwin: “For the busy executive: assuming that the executive is going to make some of the effort…” You missed the point. The point is 180 degrees the… Read more »
Anonie
Anonie
5 years 7 months ago
You’re getting tripped up over semantics, Susan. There’s nothing intrinsically clean or unambiguous about the concept of “default behavior”: switching to a new norm will sometimes require a shift of some kind in conscious behavior, assuming there’s no deceit or coercion involved. The only way someone can truly “passively” lose weight is if we surreptitiously interfere with metabolism (caffeine, drugs, illness), force obstacles on the person (e.g., broken elevator, kidnap them every weekend and leave them in the countryside with no cash), hypnotize them, etc.–hardly elegant solutions, but anything else is going to require at least a *little* bit of… Read more »
Zachary
5 years 7 months ago
Hello, 1. I would have the entire company of the exc have a hour off after lunch for a workout with company time paid. And It can be on a trail basis to see if the company likes it or not. And also let the whole company know that the exc wants to lose 10 lbs and he/she will workout with the whole company. Afterward it can go back to normal business hours. Of course everyone will scream! 2. 26 old to save, have the 26 yr old read tim ferris blog and sign up for Rambit’s freelance course. Then… Read more »
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[…] found that when managing behavior changing the defaults is more effective than using willpower, e.g., when HIV tests became part of prenatal care in the Sub-Saharan Africa, 99% of the women were t…. When the reward is unhealthy food then a way to avoid breaking your goals is to eliminate all such […]

Irena O'Brien
5 years 7 months ago
Procrastination can be due to a number of reasons: perfectionism so that if it can’t be perfect, I can’t even start; all-or-nothing thinking so that if I’m not sure I can complete it, I won’t even start; a decision strategy that relies on a long period of time so that if it takes a long time for me to decide to do something or if I can’t decide what to do, I don’t do anything, having a need to have things complete, etc.The first two (i.e., weight loss and savings plan) are “do nothing if I’m not sure I can… Read more »
Mary Ann
Mary Ann
5 years 7 months ago
Ramit, I’m only going to speak on the behaviour that I want to (and am interested to) help change: HELPING THE BUSY EXECUTIVE LOSE 10 LBS. I do want to say here that a loss of 10 lbs doesn’t involve just the measurement of weight. Just like we look at our bank account balance, it is at that certain balance for a number of reasons (shopping sale, unexpected birthday party, transportation emergency) AND/OR money is sent to a retirement fund, education trust etc. I also want to emphasize that other metrics can be used to identify success, i.e how does… Read more »
Mary Ann
Mary Ann
5 years 7 months ago

Sorry, I didn’t mean OPT IN, I mean the OPT OUT option. ( whoops, blush ). There is only ONE plan that the exec would have to sign up for. S/he’ll have the option to out out after the agreement but with stipulations. (similar to the HIV example you provided above).

Irena O'Brien
5 years 7 months ago
The solutions suggested are surface solutions and would apply only to those specific issues. The real question to ask is “Is the procrastination limited to this area only or does this person procrastinate in other areas of his/her life?” Most likely, procrastination is a general problem and if the underlying beliefs or thinking patterns are not dealt with, it will keep on surfacing. For example, I helped one of my clients discover that her procrastination problem was not procrastination at all but an inability to say “no” to work she never wanted to do because of a need to be… Read more »
K Keyes
K Keyes
5 years 7 months ago
1. Loose the executive parking spot. Use the parking lot a 15 minute walk down the street. Extra great lakes bonus, if sexecutive lives in the snowbelt, there’s the added exercise of scrapping ice and snow off your BMW! I would have the administrative assistant stock up on apples and oranges, sorry no candy or donuts at meetings. Have “walking” meetings where feasible instead of sit down meetings. 2. Have a portion of each pay check directly deposited into a savings account (that’s not connected to a checking or ATM card) 3. The baking of cakes and cookies, and the… Read more »
Yanna
Yanna
5 years 7 months ago

Congratulations, Ramit.

With this post, you’ve brilliantly illustrated your point about how we all love to debate the minutiae of personal finance and weight loss. Sigh.

Gurgling Snurg
Gurgling Snurg
5 years 7 months ago
1. Hire nutritionist to prepare meals, personal trainer to provide artificial drive during workouts. Behavior is changed via 100% external means. 2. Payroll deduction rolled into savings. Behavior is changed via 100% external means. 3. Trick question as the entire question is too vague. How do you “help” someone “feel” “measurably” “happier”? Two possible attempts to answer, nevertheless: 1. A quick read through “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.” Cured my bouts with depression instantly and permanently (14 years now) by changing depression-inducing thought patterns. 2. Hire a life coach to analyze the specific circumstances of the particular individual and… Read more »
Justin
Justin
5 years 7 months ago

Still drawing a blank for #3, but here’s my crack at #1…

Remove all bath towels from the exec’s apt. or house.

If you can’t shower at home, you’re going to have to get your ass to the gym to use the shower there. And odds are, you’re not going to go there and shower without working out (at least, not every time, and probably not even most of the time).

An easy-to-set default, the ignoring of which would require the exec to take the trouble to buy new towels.

Zac Sullivan, M.A.
5 years 7 months ago
Be the Expert: How would you engineer behavioral change? Let’s say I hire you to change the following behaviors: 1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs 2. Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his savings account by June 3. Help someone feel measurably happier How would you do it using defaults? Ramit, First of all, thank you for hiring me to correct these behaviors for you in this scenario. I could tell these people are very important to you, so here is the status update as promised with the current action plans: 1) I will incentivize Mr. Goldberg by… Read more »
onna
onna
5 years 7 months ago
The first two seems quite straight forward and there’s already great answers above, so I’ll “default” to those reasonable thoughtful ones so I can focus on the third one. Measurably happier by default behaviors. Aren’t we all ultimately trying to do this? Using paths such as developing behaviors that make us richer or healthier, so the 80% of our time is spent on behaviors that create a happier lifestyle and mindset? 1)Create a default environment of positivity. Only have access/ default to ccomedy and inspirational movies. Radio-stations are preset to those that only provide music rather than news. Music in… Read more »
Katie
Katie
5 years 7 months ago
It’s hard to give yourself a scenario where you have to opt-out. In the case above, the doctors imposed the scenario to benefit their own goals. If you want a true opt-out in your scenarios you’d have to have the employer impose default savings deposits for the 26 year old (or some such thing). In which case, my answer for all three would be to find someone to be your mommy. But for those of us that have outgrown our Pampers, we have to get things started ourselves (even if they can continue automatically from that point). Hate to be… Read more »
Susan
Susan
5 years 7 months ago
Anonie et al – again, missing the point. From Ramit’s email today: “for 99% of people, “trying harder” is a source of guilt, anxiety, and worst of all, poor results…” I don’t think I’ve seen a single option for #1 (losing weight) that actually takes the full burden off the executive for “trying harder”, and that’s what Ramit is getting at. Personally, I think #1 a question without an answer; the only way the executive can exist completely outside the ability to choose the wrong food would be to lock him up. The default food becomes whatever his jailer feeds… Read more »
Zac Sullivan, M.A.
5 years 7 months ago

Hey Ramit,

Well, it’s Wednesday and I’m following up with you as per my last comment post. I hadn’t been notified that my post was the winning one yet, so what’s up with that? Is the jury still out?

Merry Christmas,

~ Zac Sullivan ~
http://www.germanlearninghelp.com

Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

1) Help a busy executive lose 10lbs

Do all reading on a static bike – sweat while getting work done without losing any time, or instruct his / her butler to cook only with healthy ingredients (assuming he/she has one).

2) Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his savings account by June

Schedule a % of paycheck into savings account

3) Help someone feel measurably happier

Identify the cause of unhappiness, and then communicate to them others in a similar boat who have it much worse to remind them how fortunate they are

Andrew Leung
Andrew Leung
5 years 7 months ago
Q1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs Ans: Replace his lunch with low cal food, prepare the low cal menu for his secretary, every time he order from office, its would be low cal. Build Bicycle Car Park near office, encourage other staff to use bicycle, buy a few bicycle and let the CEO to use it in peak hours to avoid traffic jam. Change his office to 2nd floor, and disable the lift for 2nd floor. Q2. Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his savings account by June (=,= I am 26….its great to start my plan NOW)… Read more »
Marisol Perry
5 years 7 months ago

1) Help a busy executive lose 10lbs Do all reading on a static bike – sweat while getting work done without losing any time, or instruct his / her butler to cook only with healthy ingredients (assuming he/she has one). 2) Help a careless 26-year-old save $1,500 in his savings account by June Schedule a % of paycheck into savings account 3) Help someone feel measurably happier Identify the cause of unhappiness, and then communicate to them others in a similar boat who have it much worse to remind them how fortunate they are

Nona Mills
5 years 7 months ago
Anonie et al – again, missing the point. From Ramit’s email today: “for 99% of people, “trying harder” is a source of guilt, anxiety, and worst of all, poor results…” I don’t think I’ve seen a single option for #1 (losing weight) that actually takes the full burden off the executive for “trying harder”, and that’s what Ramit is getting at. Personally, I think #1 a question without an answer; the only way the executive can exist completely outside the ability to choose the wrong food would be to lock him up. The default food becomes whatever his jailer feeds… Read more »
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[…] I have been pondering a solution to a clever blog post about helping a busy executive lose 10 pounds by changing his defaults. […]

Patrick
5 years 6 months ago
After reading a significant amount of Tim’s new book the 4HB, I was wondering what you thought about the following approach for the busy executive losing weight: Create a list of “allowed” foods like Tim does in his book, these are okay to eat as much as he wants until satisfied. However, anything that this executive dude eats that is NOT on the list (excluding his cheat day), he must jot down into a notebook and pay some amount (either a monetary amount to a accountability partner, or some exercise, etc.) as repentance for not following his plan. This way,… Read more »
Matt Scranton
Matt Scranton
5 years 6 months ago
1. Help a busy executive lose 10lbs Because the busy executive doesn’t have much time, and can’t try harder or focus on this, playing with his eating “defaults” would be a key method. Three key solutions that could have the 10 lbs off within 4 weeks (assumptions: average height man, slightly obese, poor exercise and nutrition knowledge, diet is of the “average” American, he is “too busy” to exercise) 1. Eliminate simple carbohydrates from his meals. Take all the bread, rice, cereal, bagel, jam, and fruits from his house and throw them away. Have his secretary automatically substitute these out… Read more »
mature
11 months 6 days ago

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[…] not about willpower, he insists. We cannot will ourselves out of depression or any other behavior. He did this thing last year where he asked his readers to comment with a solution to each of three different hypothetical […]

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