Five weeks ago we had to decide: are we going on vacation? Well: we did it! It was just a short train trip to the Baltic Sea, where we stayed in a hotel for a week. After going nowhere for months, this was a very welcome change—I was finally able to really relax again and see things with a different perspective.
As I learned from the book The Elephant In The Brain, often we think that we do things for reasons, but in reality, we make up those reasons after doing something. In other words: we justify our behavior by rationalizing it. I became very aware of this through this trip. Before we went I was on the fence about whether or not it was the right thing to do. Deep down I thought the wise thing would be to stay home and not risk spreading covid (rationalizing my behavior, staying at home, was the right thing to do). But now that we went there, I’m so happy that we did, to get out of that locked-in mindset I got at home. But again, that’s rationalizing my behavior. Similarly, the first time we were about to go to the hotel’s pool, I was worried—is this okay? Shouldn’t we avoid moisty places with other people? After going once, I felt fine; it wasn’t that crowded, it was an outdoor pool, etc.
I think this rationalization behavior is often forgotten in debates about pandemic fighting policies. Your opinions about things like lockdowns and where you should wear masks is much influenced by what you’ve been doing. As a result, I bet that WFH office workers are much more likely to support strict measures, whereas those with jobs marked as essential are more likely to see things a bit more relaxed.