What is Akrasia Effect? This is why you procrastinate!



What is Akrasia Effect? This is why you procrastinate!

The procrastination problem is causing you pain, yet you are not able to eliminate it. Why is eliminating a source of the problem so difficult? The irony is, even when you are aware that procrastination is a terrible thing, you are still comfortable with it!

This all boils down to a Greek concept called the Akrasia effect. There were a lot of arguments between the staunch Greek philosophers about why Akrasia is real. It all starts when Socrates enquires how it is possible that if a person knows that action A is the best course of action, he/she will do anything other than that.

Since then, a vast number of researches have been conducted to explain the human psychology behind Akrasia. 

A renowned American behavioral economist, George Ainslie, explains in picoeconomics how humans fall for immediate rewards rather than waiting for a bigger one. According to him, we have a tendency to opt for,

-Smaller over the larger when you have an option to choose the reward earlier. For instance, when you opt to have 50 dollars today and not 100 dollars after a month. 

- Larger over smaller when there is a delay in both. For instance, you choose to have 100 dollars if you were asked to opt between 50 dollars after 12 months or 100 dollars after 13 months. 

In the above instances, even though there was the same amount of delay in both cases, the results were different. an experiment was conducted by George Ainslie and R.J Heernstein in 1981 with six pigeons and observed the same phenomenon.

You can refer to the experiment from the link below,

This leads to a new term in life which is called hyperbolic discounting. George Ainslie believes Akrasia to be a result of this. 

Coming back to the Akrasia Effect, what is it?

The Akrasia Effect is the state of acting against one's own better judgment. It is a state when you know what is good for you but you act the contrary. This is what stops you from achieving your goals. This is what makes procrastination so dear to you!

How Victor Hugo tackled it?

Victor Hugo was a renowned French novelist and a poet, known for books notably Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, The Man Who laughs, etc. 

As you see, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame has become one of the most iconic books ever in Frech literature. However, there is a story behind it. We would never have had such a remarkable book released had it not been for Hugo winning over procrastination.

Victor Hugo was facing a deadline from his publisher regarding the completion of the book. The book had to be somehow completed in less than 6 months. It just seemed impossible. However, he had to do it. He was frustrated. What you will read next is quite astonishing.

Hugo asked his assistant to lock away all of his clothes. He was to be left with a shawl only. I wonder how many writers wrote their masterpieces naked!

This strange way of beating procrastination proved to be successful. He published his book two weeks earlier.

Why did this strategy work?

Hugo knew the reason why he was procrastinating. He got devoid of the most basic elements that could help him be outside of his house. He was confined to his study, determined to complete the book as soon as possible. What can a man do with a shawl? Write a book, probably!

How can we apply this strategy to eliminate the Akrasia effect?

Of course, Hugo knew what was important. Then, why did he postpone his book for over a year? 

We are little Hugos battling with procrastination. We know what is good for us, but we act akratic. We need instant gratification. We want to take a few dollars now instead of taking a bigger amount later. We love instant results. We are impatient. 

Time and again, it has been proved that those who prefer delayed gratification are likely to become more successful in every sphere of life. 

Before you go to sleep, you make a plan to follow tomorrow. When you wake up, you lose yourself to procrastination. It seems like life is sucked out of you. You are no more an exciting chap which you were last night. 

You can only ask,

How to stop procrastinating?

You procrastinate because you choose instant gratification over delayed one. To help you stop procrastination, I have already written a blog on Seinfeld strategy. If you have not read it yet, give it a read!

Another way to stop procrastinating is following Hugo's strategy by locking up what is distracting you the most. This is hard to implement but worth it.

You can switch over to delayed gratification by switching your environment and making it conducive. Your brain loves instant gratification because it chooses not to trust what comes later. It just wants to enjoy it now. However, it also means sacrificing a better need, retirement benefit for instance. If you squander your money today, you will be left with a poor balance account when you retire. 

To make an environment conducive means to create an environment such that your brain starts trusting the results of delayed gratification. I will tell you about the famous Marshmallow Experiment in detail some other time. For now, you ought to start with small acts- acts that can be easily done. 

For instance, if you are to choose between chocolate and exercise, delay your gratification of chocolate. You can exercise first and have chocolate later. If you have your exams the next day, you can delay your gratification of watching TV. You will only believe in delayed gratification when you experience the results.

To experience the results, install a reward system. Each time you perform a delayed gratification, reward yourself. The greater the delay, the bigger the reward. However, do not reward yourself things that sabotage you.

You can stop procrastinating if you think you can just like Victor Hugo. Finish your masterpiece.

Be inspired.

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