Proximity

Have you ever eaten something because it was in front of you? Those cookies that you don’t even like. The mediocre pizza place that’s downstairs from your apartment. The yoga studio that’s on your home from work.

Understanding how proximity affects you means being more aware of your decision-making habits. You might be on autopilot saying yes or no to things. Without even realizing that you’re on autopilot–that’s the worst part.

I’ve found that it’s surprising how much proximity affects what we choose. We tend to hang out in our neighborhood. We turn down events if they’re too far. Or we go to them because the venue is close by. We might become a regular customer not because we particularly like the food, but because it’s easy.

Just because something is nearby means that we are more likely to engage with it. I don’t think it’s because people are lazy. It’s reasonable to take commuting time into account. If the thing is really worth it, the commuting time might be worth it. We might travel further for certain things but not others.

First, proximity probably has a bigger influence on some people than others. For example, some people don’t mind an hour commute to work, while others prefer a ten minute walk. There are different thresholds for how much distance matters.

Second, there are likely categories (food, events, people) where proximity has a bigger effect on you. Maybe you’d go across town to hang out with a friend, but won’t travel more than two blocks for lunch.

The next time you choose to do something, think about whether you’re saying yes simply because it’s close by and within reach. Would you rather delay gratification for something better but harder to get to?

More importantly, the next time you say no, think about whether it’s because you’ve automatically decided that some things are too far. It’s okay if you have. Recognizing your own patterns can help us change if we decide that the way we’re deciding isn’t serving us for the best.