Full disclosure, I was inspired by a recent podcast on NPR’s “Hidden Brain”, which if you’ve never listened to, is a fascinating take on a variety of psychological peculiarities and/or imperfections of us humans. The podcast was labeled, “Me, Myself, and IKEA” the premise being that everyone has a little narcissistic tendency inside of them. Side note, in Greek mythology, Narcissus basically saw his own reflection in some water, fell in love with it, and stared at it for his entire life until he died. I always wondered where the term narcissist came from, those crazy Greek myths. We all like or tend to be drawn to things we can most easily identify with. Interestingly enough, though, not only do we tend to like things that we relate to more, we place more value on things we had a hand in creating. Daniel Mochon, an Associate Professor at Tulane University, and contributing author to this episode, calls this the “IKEA effect”. In this blog post, I wanted to explore how the “IKEA effect” might impact our perceptions of self-worth and whether or not exercising, eating a healthy diet, and making a conscious investment in our health have the same effect as building your own desk vs. buying one pre-assembled.
Easy Way or the Hard Way?
Imagine scenario one, and bare with me, we’re going to use a ton of metaphors. You stop by a furniture store and pick out a beautiful, solid oak, and hand-crafted desk for your home office. It’s fully assembled and you have it delivered and moved into the home office. Yeah, it’s expensive, say $500, but the fact that you didn’t have to invest time into putting it together and it was delivered to your house convinces you that it was totally worth it. But was it? Imagine this fully assembled desk as the supplement that promises you six-pack abs, the surgical procedure that will hide some embarrassing imperfection, or the new “fat-burning” shoes. These things all cost a lot of money relative to the amount it costs to shop for more fruits and vegetables, go for a walk, or power down your television an hour earlier for better sleep.
Enter scenario two, which compared to the first, is a huge pain in the ass (but worth it, I promise). You drive to the “do-it-yourself” capital of the world, IKEA, and scoop up a discounted desk, but one that is completely disassembled and might as well have a sticker on it reading “guaranteed to drive you effing insane.” The desk ended up costing $200 and you swear that next time you’d rather buy 5 of those pre-assembled desks and shell out $2500 before putting together another desk by yourself. That is, until you’ve finished, and you step back and admire the work, the sweat, the tears (maybe) that it took to finish the DIY furniture purchase. This is the furniture equivalent of actually putting in the work to go for a walk every night, getting a good night sleep, and eating wholesome foods (not including asparagus water, what a joke).
What’s Your Input?
If we are programmed to subconsciously place more value on things we’ve had a hand in creating, then what does this say about the power of the input for our feedback loop? Hint: the type of input is crucial to the overall quality of the feedback you gain from it. Sticking with the IKEA effect here, if you worked hard to create your overall quality of health, with healthy food choices (nails), consistent exercise (particle board), and adequate sleep (instruction manual), wouldn’t you then value the end product exponentially more? If you valued the product more, maybe you’d be more likely to stick to whatever lifestyle change you were trying to make in the first place.
This comparison is a stretch, but the bottom line is, with the right plan, proper execution, and a system in place, creating your own health with good decision making will increase your own self-worth. I promise I’m not a spokesperson for IKEA, and I’ve never even shopped there, but they seem to have struck gold with an unintended consequence of having people assemble their own furniture. Increase your own self-worth, make your own desk, and I’m here for you if you need an instruction manual.
Yours in Wellness,
Prevention over Treatment