Why We Suck at Self-Control

We say we’ll save. Instead we buy some kickin’ cowboy boots. We say we’ll diet. We buy a box of munchkins. We say we’ll put out tonight. We knit some socks for Uncle Jimmy.

Bottom line: We suck at self-control. This is a problem for those of us who would rather be rich, skinny and over-sexed than poor, fat and struggling to remember what season it was when we last had sex with our beloved.

Dan Ariely, author of the books Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality, recently gave a talk about temptation and self-control. ”In the future we are wonderful people. We will save, we will exercise, we will diet. The problem, of course, is we never live in the future,” he said.

The solution to our lazy and self-indulgent ways is to devise clever commitment devices (or, for some, it’s getting religion). Find ways to make yourself do the things you don’t want to do and you can improve your future self.

Here’s how it worked for Dan: He had to take some nasty shots for a drug trial. Like most red-blooded human beings, Dan doesn’t like shots. So he gave himself an incentive to deal with the injections: He let himself watch a movie every time he got a shot. This was a big incentive because in the busy life of Dan Ariely, not a lot of movies get watched. The result? Dan took all his shots–apparently he was the only one in the trial who did–and he got to watch a lot of detective and crime movies: Cool Hand Luke, The Godfather, The Maltese Falcon. “Somehow comedies did not do it for me,” he told us, “and for sure not romantic movies.”

Posted in commitment, sex

3 Responses to Why We Suck at Self-Control

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Why we suck at self-control | Spousonomics -- Topsy.com

  2. Ryan Tyler says:

    I think it’s also important to have only one or two primary goals, rather than many.

  3. Pingback: Be Real: Sticking to New Year’s Resolutions | Spousonomics

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