Employees at Chick-fil-A are trained to respond with “my pleasure” when a customer says thank you. Some are enthusiastic; some are just reading from the script. This isn’t about the purpose of the response – which is to convey gratitude to customers. This about the effect repeating the phrase can have on an employee.
Whenever I hear them say it, I’m reminded of a mind trick a former therapist gave me that causes mundane tasks to seem less torturous. I don’t recall a name for it, so we’ll call it the theory of My Pleasure.
Here’s how it works in practice:
- Take an activity that you find miserable/uncomfortable/dreadful/tedious
- Perform the activity repeatedly
- Observe the activity magically become less agonizing if not pleasant
Consider it applied to things like changing diapers, paying bills, giving a daily brief, or any other required task that you’re not crazy about. Initially, it might’ve bugged the hell out of you, but after a few thousand times, you hit that middle area on the love-hate spectrum and land near indifference. You no longer feel either way about it. You just get it done.
I had been having issues getting to work on time at Keesler (Air Force Base). Being late caused my days to start like crap because of the stress of rushing and the shame of appearing unreliable to my coworkers who seemed to always arrive on time. It wasn’t a big mystery why: I procrastinated in the mornings. I hit the snooze button multiple times. Most mornings, I didn’t have clothes set out or breakfast lined up. Poor planning, poor self-discipline, and procrastination is why I was late to work almost every day.
My therapist gave me a simple (SEEMINGLY simple) challenge to get up right after my alarm went off once. That’s it: turn off the alarm, get out of bed.
I would say that I reached the level of feeling neutral about getting up in the mornings. But it definitely worked to get me to work on time. I would never set my alarm for a time that didn’t give me enough room to prepare for work, and I noticed almost immediately that I’d been setting my alarm to go off at a time that gave me a serious snooze cushion. The drive to work had less traffic – which meant less stress. I had time for a warm breakfast. I stopped alienating myself from my coworkers.
Keep in mind the goal was to make getting out of bed less of a pain, and changing that one thing worked. I didn’t suddenly feel like mornings were great, but getting out of bed on the first alarm became routine. It wasn’t a hurtle. It wasn’t a thing anymore. My brain wrote it off as a reflex action.
Ever since, I’ve looked for those other activities that have to get done regularly that I don’t really care for. I’ve also tried to actively apply the practice to certain tasks in my career like showing up for meetings. It’s become an absolute in my trials. The more repetitious an activity, the easier my mind switches it to auto-pilot.
Try it out. Try both looking for those things you do regularly and making a routine of some new tasks to see how it affects something you want to change. If you’re a devout snoozer, roll out of bed on the first bell. If you work in customer service, tell patrons to have a nice day or offer a fist bump.
When someone gives me advice or a suggested fix, I set out to disprove it. With that, my challenge to you is prove the theory wrong.
Think about what you do/have done that proves or disproves the “My Pleasure” theory
In what activity doesn’t it work?
Are you amazed as I was at how logical and simple this is?
What would you call the theory?