I finished The Power of Habit which annoyed me greatly with its melodramatic examples and tortured framing of willpower as a habit rather than a resource. I do not recommend it. However, it did remind me of a little story.
The summer before I went to college, I worked at the Kennecott building in Salt Lake City. Two walls of the bottom floor of the building were inside a mall where everyone had lunch. After lunch the first day, I came back with three girls I worked with through a set of glass doors at the back of the building. Even though the door clearly said “Pull” I pushed on it with enough force to rattle all the glass on the back side of the building. Everyone working at reception and waiting for the elevators turned to the glass wall to see what was happening. It was kind of embarrassing.
The fun part of this story is that I did the same darn thing the whole rest of the week. I would leave through those glass doors telling myself to remember to “Pull” when I saw the Pull sign on my way back. And then after lunch I would be thinking my own little thoughts, “Lah lah lah”, then PUSH! Raaatttle. Stare. Sowwy!
The unfun part of this story is that I did the same darn thing the whole rest of the summer. I left willing myself to remember to Pull or to enter by some other door after lunch, but no. Sometimes I even remembered when I started on my way back from lunch, “Today’s my day! Today is going to be the day I pull!” But by the time I got to the door, though, I was thinking about other stuff, or when I saw the Pull sign, I thought, “Uhoh. I know there’s something tricky about this….” PUSH!! Raaaatttle. The receptionists by now barely looked up, which was nice.
Finally, one day several feet in front of the door, I remembered. “Okay, okay, I got this. Here we go.” I saw the Pull sign. For good measure I even read it aloud, “Pull”–as I shoved the door full strength. PUSH! Raaatttle.