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Choice architecture & healthy habits : Becoming the architect of your own environment

Choice architecture is a behavioural term used to describe the ways in which the number and arrangement of choices presented to someone impacts their decision making.

Marketers of products well understand how to present choices to consumers to encourage them to choose the products and services they most want them to choose. This is evident in the position of items in supermarket, the day and time you’re served digital fast food ads, even the ease of purchase of fast food through one-click apps, to name just a few we’re faced with every day.

In the past, we assumed that if people wanted to do something, being rational people, they would do it. However, this is not necessarily the case.

We all (well most of us anyway), want to make healthy choices. Why then, do these marketing beacons have such a powerful influence over our behaviour?

It’s all about how the choices are presented to us, and how much conscious or subconscious control we have over the way we respond.

If I asked you to describe your day to me in detail, you would probably provide an overview of some of the things that happen during your day. However, if I observed you for a day, there would no doubt be a whole host of things that you do that don’t even register with you. Such are the strength of our habits.

Your habits, are both a product of your environment and at the same time, creating and recreating your environment through repetition, subconsciously.

This means that the current set up of where things are in your house, workplace and other places you spend time are likely to influence your decision making, both subconsciously and consciously.

In order to change our behaviours, we need to change our habits. In order to change our habits, we need to change various elements of our environment, including some or none of our physical environment and social environment.

Why is this useful? Because this is how your brain actually works!

Choice architecture becomes more pragmatically useful when you learn to plan changes to your environment that work even when you are not thinking about it. When seeking to change our behavior, it’s vital to identify small physical changes you can make in your environment to set up different defaults.

If you create too many choices or you do not significantly limit the choices your future self has available, you are too open to your future whims, moods, level of tiredness and other factors that influence split second decisions. Cheeky takeaway on the way home anyone?

This lies at the heart of the ‘Habit before the Habit’ methodology and is one of the key elements in redesigning your habits in the future. We have seen this work with great success with thousands of families, young people and adults. Once you understand the role of choice architecture, you can become the architect of your own environment.