When trying to encourage good behaviour, we like to appeal to a sense of future. “You need to save now for your retirement.” However, if you really want to change behaviour, most of us will probably need some kind of short-term feedback.
Photo by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner
Author Seth Godin explains what many of us understand instinctively, whether or not we know it. We react very strongly to short-term feedback: if you touch something hot, you learn not to touch it anymore. If you blow your entire paycheque in one weekend, you’ll feel the crunch in a few days. We’re not so good at understanding long-term feedback:
Sure, intelligent adults should be smart enough to figure out the net present value of a lifetime of cigarette purchases, plus the long-term health costs. And some are. But not enough.
And students should be smart enough to realise that extra effort and expense in college might pay off in income or happiness in a few decades. And some are. But not enough.
If you want to reward (or punish) short-term behaviour, don’t do it down the road. Advances turn more heads than royalty streams do.
Not everything has a consequence in the short-term (or else there wouldn’t be a problem). For things that don’t — like building your savings or investing in your relationships — try to find a way to cause some short-term consequences. If you fail to save money every pay, have a friend or significant other charge you a fee or do a chore for them. Create in-the-moment accountability, rather than ignoring the consequences.
Short term, long term [Seth Godin]