Self-Persuasion: Making Better Choices

Akrasia is the ancient Greek term for acting against your own judgement. This is a simple mental exercise you can use to overcome it. I won’t give any examples here because I want you to fill the application in yourself.

Note that this won’t work as well on immediate decisions as it does ones far away. It also helps if you repeat it. It would work for the decision to change a habit, but not for individual instances of that habit.

You’ll need a pen and paper. The exercise goes like this…

  1. Hold the two options you have in mind, both the good one you want to choose and the bad one you’re resisting.
  2. Make two columns, and write the good one on the left, with the bad one on the right.
  3. Now write down what you stand to gain by making the good decision under its column heading.
  4. Now write down what you stand to lose by making the bad decision on the right.
  5. Write down the positive feelings you’ll experience as a result of making the good choice. Write down the negative feelings you’ll experience as a result of making the bad choice.

This works because your brain is mentally reinforcing negative associations with the bad choice and positive associations with the good choice. Over time, these associations make you more likely to choose the good decision. (That’s why I say it won’t work as well on immediate actions.)

True story, I’ve used a modified version of this method for years to reaffirm my commitment to being a successful music producer. I’ll write about that method later if somebody bothers me to do so. I have no way of testing whether it works of course. But given that five years of getting no results hasn’t deterred me, I’d say I’m onto something.

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