As I officially started my Levelled Up Shopping Fast about a month ago (on June 19th), here are the impressions and learnings from month one. The beginning has been harder than I thought, as I underestimated the importance of mindset and unconscious behaviours (damn brain biases). Here are some learnings from my missed start, as well as the rest of the month, as I went back on track.
Here is my major learning of the month: A shopping fast project is like any other habit implementation: you can't just decide to do it and it magically happens, if you don't mentally (and materially) prepare for it, you're gonna have a bad time.
Here are 2 major things I have learned this month about the shopping fast mindset: about temptation and brain biases, and about the real, inner motivation to start such an experiment. In the next five months to come, I am hoping that this preparation will help avoid future "fails", but also stay with me after the fast has ended, to diminish my material item consumption on the long term.
Weaknesses, Temptation and BiasesWe are less capable to resist temptation than we think before entering the shop, and our willpower is a finite resource so we should avoid situtations that require willpower to resist. Today, I have a couple more learnings on the subject of weaknesses and temptation.
- Weaknesses and self awareness
First: knowing about a personal weakness doesn't make us immune to it. A lesson I have learned the hard way, with my second early fail (chronologically the first one actually): I entered a GAP store with le fiancé to find summer clothes for him, and ended up buying a couple of tops for myself.
I know that my main shopping weakness is shopping with friends. In the case of clothes, le fiancé's opinion is particularly strong, for obvious reasons. So why did I even enter the store? Because I naïvely thought that, since I had identified my weakness, I somehow was now protected by this knowledge and could resist temptation. But the problem with brain biases, it that we still fall for them, even when we are self aware. Have you noticed how most of the time, even when you are told about an optical illusion, your eyes still see it?
- On Environmental Temptation
Second observation on temptation: we are submitted to daily temptations in our society, much more often than I thought. And that's coming from a marketing professional who doesn't watch TV and unsubscribed from newsletter and consumption inducing magazines and blogs. Between ads and billboards, store fronts, women with great outfits on the street, I am faced with daily new purchase ideas.
Paradoxally, I find myself weaker to these daily "ideas" since I know marketing techniques, but also myself, my needs and preferences better. Why? Because I can identify a perfectly adequate item instantly. And it's much harder to resist the temptation to buy an item when you know it is going to be a good and long lasting purchase.
As I'm going through my stock and finances, I realize that before the fast, I actually bought these "temptation" items most of the time - not on the spot, but it ended up in my list of the possible, and I eventually purchased most of them. But now that I basically have all the adequate items I need around me already, being "just right" isn't enough of a reason for purchase anymore.
Setting a Mindset for SuccessAnother huge learning for this month's shopping fast is to start by identifying a profound, meaningful reason and motivation to do this experiment. Something deeper than "let's see what happens" or "maybe I can save some money". I think this applies for any habit implementation: if you don't have a profound motivation to get back to when you're tempted, you will give in to temptation much more quickly.
For example, when I started practising sports regularly in summer 2012, and actually managed to keep it up until now, I shifted my inner motivation compared to previous failed attempts. My motivation went from the basic "I want to be beautiful, I want to lose weight" to a deeper "I want to prove to myself that I can be athletic despite what sport teachers told me when I was a child. I want to nurture a good physical condition to age healthily". The people I know succeeding to stop smoking, as another example, was because of their children's health.
In other words, in order for my shopping fast to succeed, I needed to identify a strong, inner motivation for it, beyond a simple taste for experiments. When I gave in to the Ecocentric purchase, I remember thinking "Why am I inflicting this fast to myself anyway? I'm a working adult with a healthy bank account, I have no reason to deprive myself from this good purchase." If I had a deeper motivation at that point, I may have resisted the purchase.
Month One Learnings - Wrap UpHere are the main things I learned during this first month of shopping fast:
Knowing about a brain bias or personal weakness is not enough, we must stay away from temptation altogether :
- Learning about either the human brain biases we all face, or your own personal weaknesses, is a good start - but the logical consequence is to avoid any situation that may expose you to that bias or weakness
- There are already a lot of "natural", unavoidable temptations out there, so let's avoid what we can: unsubscribe from newsletter and commercial magazines, stop browsing online stores and stop going to the shopping street if possible.
- Being more confident about your needs and preferences can increase the power of temptation as you are more certain this will be a good purchase. The best attitude is to try and avoid finding good purchases in the first place. What you don't see, you don't want.
- Finding an adequate item doesn't mean you *have to* buy it. Once your collection of items is correctly furnished, an item being perfectly within your taste shouldn't be enough of a reason to buy it.
We need to identify an inner motivation, a deep reason for engaging in a long term habit or experiement such as a six month shopping fast :
- No matter how well prepared we are, we will face temptation at some point. Without a bigger motivation to cling on to, chances are you will think "why am I inflicting this to myself?" and give in to temptation
- Therefore, before starting such an experiment, it is important that you identify this inner motivation, something that is really important to you, that you can get back to next time you face temptation.
- Examples of inner motivations can be: what are you saving the money for? Holidays with your loved ones? Saving for your children's education? Buying your own home? It can also be linked to a will to grow and change your habits on the long term - not see it as a six month transition, but the start of a longer commitment to simplicity.
All in all, I'm quite happy with the learnings of this first month. Even if I failed not once, but twice. I still have a lot to discover, but I'm quite astonished at all I can learn about myself as a consumer, despite being already critically considering my purchase habits for several years. It's just incredible how many of our behaviours are unconscious.
So what's next? After the missed start, I decided to prepare myself better and move on with my shopping fast, starting July 11. I'll keep sharing learnings, at least each month, and through dedicated posts in-between if I find interesting topics to develop separately. What about you? What temptations are you weakest to? Do you have an inner motivation when you start a new habit?