our teleological nature

The Perfect Place to Pee.

I traveled through SeaTac airport Saturday headed out to a ministry event in Maui (I know, life is rough). Before we flew out I stopped off to use the bathroom in the N-gate terminal.

Any man who's ever been in these bathrooms lately will tell you that there's something special about SeaTac airport's N-gate urinals. All have a small black spiral, about the size of a nickel, etched toward the bottom of the back splash wall, slightly left of center. The moment you approach the urinal, that little spiral is the first thing you notice.

You know what this little spot is? The perfect place to pee. Researchers and airport managers from Amsterdam to New York have discovered they can get men to hit the right spot with etchings that range from a simple housefly to the slightly more sophisticated little spiral I enjoyed shooting today. "If you go to the men's washrooms at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam," writes engineering professor Kim Vicente, author of The Human Factor, "you may notice there's a fly in the urinals. So what do you think most men do? That's right, they aim at the fly when they urinate. They don't even think about it, and they don't need to read a user's manual; it's just an instinctive reaction. The interesting feature of these urinals is that they're deliberately designed to take advantage of this inherent human male tendency."

These well-placed etchings reduce splatter and any resulting cleanup cost by well over eighty percent, saving airports lots of money every year, and making the bathroom experience a lot cleaner for everyone. This idea has proven to be so effective that a website, www.urinalfly.com, is working to install them in bathrooms all over the world. "Our goal at UrinalFly.com," say the founders, "is to make the world cleaner one bathroom at a time."

Airport operators understand a fundamental principle of human nature: when you give someone something to aim for, they will. We all love to aim, especially us men. Scientists call this our "teleological nature," based on the word "teleos," which means "end, completion, or goal." We are fundamentally goal-oriented creatures, whether we realize it or not. Deep in our DNA there's a need to set targets and hit them. We want to create a variety of "completions" and "endings," and find great satisfaction and happiness as we do. We search for goals, become energized by goals, and lock on to goals, consciously and unconsciously.

Just like the houseflies and spirals in airport urinals tap an underlying teleological drive and get us to change our behavior, Project 28 works to tap this same drive by helping Christians define the ideal knowledge and behavior, measure themselves against that ideal, and take steps to improve their aim. Our goal is to give Christians something they don't often find anywhere else: a clear target. Our assessments create a powerful little black spiral for our Christian life.

By giving ourselves something at which to aim, 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!