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Contentment and Predictably Irrational

April 23, 2009

I have been reading and enjoying the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely this week. One area that he deals with is what he calls anchors. These are subconsciously set points that we set that help us make decisions in life. We often times use them to set what we believe about values and worth.

He did a great experiment with numbers showing that we set anchor points as they relate to what we will and won’t do. They did an experiment with the last two digits of the social security number and determined predicatlb2that they could influence what people would spend by having them focus on these last two digits. They asked the people to focus on their last two digits and then asked them to bid on products. They observed that those whose last two digits were low had low anchor points and bid less for the items than those who had higher final digits.

In my life an example would be concerts. I have a mental value set in my head for what I think a concert is worth. Where did it come from? Well probably from many years of going to concerts when we lived in Iowa. The concerts we attended where almost always Christian ones and they tended to be cheaper than those that were not. I mean how can you beat seeing Third Day and Switchfoot before Switchfoot got big for $15.00?

I have a mental value for concerts that is $30.00. So how many concerts do you think I see? Not that many. I have purchased tickets for concerts that my wife wants to see because I know she values them differently. I have a hard time pulling the trigger when it comes to me. So I skipped Coldplay and I’m having a hard time justifying U2 in my head.

Why? Are the tickets really to expensive? Would seeing U2 once in my life be a great experience? You see we all create these mental anchor points that tell us value and so it is hard for me to justify the cost. If I had an anchor point that was higher, say I valued concert at $75.00, then things would be different. If that were the case do you think we would even be discussing U2? I would already own the tickets.

So, what does this have to do with anything? You are probably thinking I’m angling for someone to buy me U2 tickets. Not a bad idea. Email me and we can talk.

No, I think I have a good point and here it is.

We often site Jesus words in Matthew 6:19-34 when talking about being content but if we don’t teach people about their anchor points we may have a tough time getting them to do anything different. You see it is one thing to tell them, another to give them the tools to recognize the need to change.

In reality Jesus is attempting to set an anchor point in Matthew 6. If the church really wants to do more than just tell people what they should do, then we will need to teach them about their anchor points, help them recognize where theirs are, and teach them how to reset them to what Jesus teaches.

Paul also talks about his anchor point in Philippians, take a look.

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:10-13

So we tell people to be content but we don’t equip them for it. Where do you see Paul’s anchor point? “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Paul’s answer is the same as Jesus answer in Matthew 6.

If we learned to make zero our anchor point, I need nothing more than Jesus Christ, would that change how we measured everything? Instead of asking is it legal for a Christian to do, no rule against it so it doesn’t matter, would we act differently instead?

I believe that Dan Ariely shows us that the answer is yes. May we all set Jesus as our anchor point. Telling people isn’t as good as showing them and helping them learn how to set better anchor points.

God bless.

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