our teleological nature

The Shower Coach.

I took a shorter shower than normal while staying at a friend's house in Wailuku, Maui this week. Why? I was motivated by a little gadget on the shower wall, called a "Shower Coach."

The Shower Coach is a waterproof, five-minute hourglass circled in foam and stuck to the shower wall. When you rotate it, the sand begins to flow. The implicit message is, "Get your business done before the sand runs out."

I turned the hourglass and got started, and wasn't about to let the sand beat me. I lathered, rinsed, and repeated faster than I would have without the race against the sand.

The Shower Coach works for a couple of reasons. First, it sets a challenging target. It beckons you to finish in five minutes, a goal that requires a little bit of morning motivation and skill to reach. Second, it measures progress. As the sand flows, it provides direct feedback for how you're doing. The Shower Coach turns showering into a game by incorporating the core elements of all games: a goal, rules, challenge and interaction.

The makers of the Shower Coach understand a fundamental principle of human nature: when you give someone a target, they will naturally try to hit it. Scientists call this our "teleological nature," based on the word "teleos," which means "end, completion, or goal." We are fundamentally goal-centered, whether we realize it or not. Deep in our DNA there's a need to create targets and aim for them. Every day, we work to create "completions" and "endings," and find great satisfaction and happiness as we do. We search for and lock on to goals, consciously and unconsciously.

The Shower Coach also illustrates a powerful antidote to Parkinson's Law, which says that "work expands to fill the time available for its completion." Parkinson's Law says if you give yourself an hour to write a letter, it will likely take at least an hour. But if you give yourself fifteen minutes, it will likely take fifteen minutes. Whenever we set a timeframe for completion of a task, either consciously or unconsciously, we strive naturally to put enough work into that timeframe for completion. When the timeline is challenging but reasonable, as is the case with the Shower Coach, we work harder naturally.

Just like the Shower Coach taps an underlying teleological drive and changes our shower behavior, Project 28 works to help Christians define ideal knowledge and behavior, measure themselves against that ideal, and work to improve their behavior. Our goal is to give Christians something they don't often find anywhere else: a timed challenge to change. Our monthly assessment system creates this timed challenge, inspiring us to get better this month than we were last month in our basic habits of faith, the managing of our money, and ultimately our alliance with the greatest timed challenge in all of life: the Great Commission to teach everyone to obey everything Christ commanded.

It's time we lived our lives with a positive sense of urgency, because the sands are running out whether we acknowledge it or not. We have a measured amount of time to live, laugh, love, and leave a legacy of a godly heritage. By giving ourselves timed challenges, we unleash the natural forces of purpose that motivate and energize us to become more like Christ.

about erik van alstine

Erik is a change expert and author of the personal finance discipleship system, Breaking Free: Financial Strategies that Transform Debt into Wealth. Breaking Free is like driver's ed in your financial life, a powerful video curriculum that offers experiential learning, assessment, and transformation! Take our free MoneyFinder Quiz to see just how much payoff Breaking Free can create for you!