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November 16, 2009

Today Zach and I ran some errands and stopped into our favorite warehouse store, Costco.  Our list was short and included one item we had a coupon for… but about 90 minutes later, our bulk-sized cart was overflowing.  In addition to the software, wine and salad greens that we came for, we had a set of wine glasses, a humidifier and a new purse for me.  Yet again, we fell victim to “shopping momentum,” a term coined by the book The Paradox of Choice and something that happens to all of us quite regularly.  This concept is what stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl’s rely on.  Customers come in for one item – toothpaste or towels or software – and the mental decision to purchase that one item opens their mind up to purchasing more items, even if they are unrelated to the original purchase. 

I’ve noticed momentum in life a lot lately – not the kind of momentum that has something to do with motion and velocity, honestly, I’ve never taken a Physics class, so I have no idea what that momentum even involves.  What I’m talking about could be called “decision momentum” and it comes from almost every decision I make.  For example, when I come home from work, I make a decision about what to do.  I might decide to clean up the breakfast dishes in the kitchen or log-on to facebook to see what my “friends” have to say.  If I go the first route and do the dishes, I will often start a load of laundry, vacuum or tidy up the house next.  Then my evening starts off productive and I’m likely to follow it up with even more productivity, like a trip to the gym or a project around the house.  If I go the second route and plop down on the couch to see what’s going on in the social media world, I will check facebook, read a few blogs, turn on Oprah, check facebook again and continue on until I remember that I just spent 8 hours on a computer and I’m turning into the computer-nerd version of a couch potato.  Blah.

So how do I get myself to make that first decision a good one so that the ones that follow are equally as good?  If I decide to go to the gym, I am more likely to follow it with a healthy meal.  If I decide to cross something off my to-do list, I am more likely to follow it with another item on my to-do list.  If I lay on the couch, I am more likely to…lay on the couch some more. 

I think part of it is remembering that this momentum exists.  When I threw the first item into the Costco cart this morning – a 2-pack of camisoles (seriously, theirs are the best) – I said “let the shopping momentum begin.”  And begin it did.

Until I figure this out, I think I’ll write some more and drink more wine…the momentum has already begun…

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