What Our “Easy Bias” at the Gym Can Teach Us About Money
Our brains are wired to conserve energy. This means, if we have a choice, we tend to unconsciously move toward the path of least resistance. I call this our “easy bias.”
We all do this – it's our nature. And unfortunately, this can cause problems with our money. It's hard work to make and follow a budget. Long-range planning makes our brains hurt. And let me ask you, does anyone really read the small print on credit card statements, contracts, investment documents and the like? I don't think so. Why? It's easier not to.
Here's an example of humans taking the easy path. I'm a gym rat. I work out every day at the YMCA located just across the street from my office. It's a five story building. As you'd expect, it has an elevator. The locker rooms are located on the ground floor and the cardio and spinning equipment are on the top floor.
It's January. So as you'd expect, the place is packed with regulars and new members – the crowds usually thins out by March, but that's another story. I assume everyone, has the common goal to achieve or keep up a high level of fitness - a noble goal.
Here's my point. If your goal is fitness, then everything you do 24/7 should support, or move you toward that end. Right? Fitness isn't something, or shouldn't be something, you only worry at the gym.
So, here's my question. If your goal is to lose weight and improve your cardio fitness, why not take the stairs and not the elevator from the ground floor locker rooms to the fifth floor cardio center? Shouldn't you take the stairs? I mean, the stairs count. It's cardio exercise climbing stairs. The fitness benefits far exceeds the ease of taking the elevator.
Why you ask. It's simple. It's easier to take the elevator. And that's what we are conditioned to do. It's an unconscious “easy bias” behavior. Further, it's interesting that if someone stands in front of the elevator and points this out, we tend to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go figure.
Here's your money take away.
- We are all inherently lazy.
- We are wired to have a short-term, dopamine driven “instant gratification” bias.
- We usually default to the “easy,” even if the alternative has greater long-term benefits.
- We often need someone or something to nudge us toward the “correct” behavior.
- We need expectations and accountability to succeed – difficult to do alone.
- We need time to make the new behavior a habit and the new “normal.”
Now you know why you didn't contribute to your Roth IRA last year. It's easy to rationalized that you couldn't afford putting the money away, even though you spend more than that eating out.