There I was, sitting in a packed movie theatre. I waited two years for this sequel and I’ve got enough popcorn and diet soda to last me a full three hours. Fifteen minutes into the movie, the hero and villain are facing off for the first time when a lady bursts into the theater. Trying to find a seat, she awkwardly tries to squeeze into the middle of the row in front of me blocking the best part of the movie. “What a rude and inconsiderate person!” I think to myself as I dodge her body when she scuffles by.


It’s New Year’s Eve. There I am on the dance floor — it’s teeming with people and there’s hardly space to breathe. Loud thumping music pierces my eardrums and I have no idea where my friends are.

Then, the guy next to me takes a misstep, spills an entire cup of beer down my shoulder. I gasp as the cold brew winds its way down my back. But he’s too drunk and the music is too loud for him to notice. Is this supposed to be fun? What am I doing here?


There I was, looking at an enormous wall of television screens. Each one flashed the exact same scene — a beautiful flower slowly blooming to reveal each petal, pistil, and stamen in exquisite super high definition detail. It was downright sexy. But now it was time to make my choice.

Would I buy the $400 television within my budget or would I splurge on the $500 deluxe model that somehow helped me understand plant biology in a new, more intimate way?

Though every cone and rod in my eyeballs begged me to buy the better one, my more sensible instinct…


You walk into your first yoga class. You’re a little insecure about your weight and how your yoga clothes cling to your body revealing every flaw. You’re nervous about making a fool of yourself.

Your eyes instantly zoom onto the fit model-esque people chatting in the corner. As you walk past them, your ears pick up the tinkle of laughter. My god, are they laughing at me?

You pick a spot in the back of the classroom where no one can see you. The teacher asks everyone to get into crouching fish pose. Do people know this pose?

You flail…


Have you ever had a mounting pile of work you KNOW you need to do? There’s an important deadline looming, your boss is breathing down your neck — all signs are pointing to you getting it done. But you put if off, turn on Netflix and fantasize about how you’re going to crush work tomorrow.

You’ve fallen victim to hyperbolic discounting.

Hyperbolic discounting is a cognitive bias, where people choose smaller, immediate rewards rather than larger, later rewards — and this occurs more when the delay is closer to the present than the future.

Researchers run a classic experiment for it. Imagine you’re given 2 choices…


You’re a high achiever — fresh out of school, early in your career or just looking for a new transition. Startups seem like the place to be for you.

You have a plethora of options in front of you — Startup A offers you free lunches and $200,000 a year. Startup B says shoes are optional and offers yoga classes for your dog. Startup C lets you casually namedrop how you had dinner at Mark’s place and he totally took your soy allergy into account.

All these are things that startups throw at you to hire the best talent, and…


This is Part 2 in a series on habit change. Click here to read Part 1.

Remember Joe? He’s in his mid thirties, with a noble goal of losing 20 pounds. Joe really wants to work out regularly, but whenever he gets home, he ended up watching TV to relax. He’s so used to this cycle that it’s become a habit he can’t shake.


Meet Joe. He’s in his mid 30s, and has 2 kids. Trying to watch his waistline, he decides he wants to lose 20 pounds. He buys the latest in wearables and the best in fitness apps to track his food and exercise. He tracks religiously for the first week and manages to lose a few pounds. But by week 2, he’s less excited. And by the end of the month, he completely stops and he gains back the pounds. He’s unhappy about how he looks, and blames himself for failure.

Lakshmi Mani

lakshmi-mani.com / Product Designer @ Stride. Previously @ Cognitive. Changing behaviors with design. Guilty pleasures: British panel shows.

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