Stop Defeating Akrasia (1/​4)

Stop.

This will be the first post in a four part series on defeating Akrasia, which is defined as the practice of acting against one’s better judgement. It might work. It might be idiosyncratic nonsense. It worked for me. Try it; the techniques are easy and either immediately work or don’t. No learning curve, no practice required. No investment. This first part is an introduction, and will be followed by three posts illustrating three very simple techniques to be used in conjunction. For now, let me show you something.

Close to one-hundred percent of adult humanity knows and understands the benefits of exercise. I wont bother linking any of the bajillion empirical studies that corroborate the benefits of exercise. They are not required. You already know that it affords benefits to cognitive health, physical health, sexual attractiveness, mood, and so on—anything that anyone really wants. You are not alone—everybody and their mother has known this too, and probably for many millennia, and definitely long before anyone was literate or knew how to do science. Thirty minutes of heart pumping exercise per day is an exceptionally good deal—it is drinking from the fountain of youth, and everyone already knows about it. Everybody knows about it, yet few do it.

Stop.

You know how this auto completes. You know I am going to ask why so many people behave so obviously pathologically. You know I am going to name and blame Akrasia. You know what that is already. You clicked this post, after all. You know the problem has nothing to do with knowing, and now you’re going to know more by reading this post. You’re going to know more, and you’re still not going to hit the gym or do that thing that you know you should be doing. You know all about hyperbolic discounting/​TAPs/​whatever else, you read all the footnotes and caveats, and you’re still not going to hit the gym. Didn’t know about those things? Great, now you know more, but be honest—it’s redundant information, isn’t it? It helped only a little bit, right?

If the treatment was knowledge, you would be immediately certified as treatment resistant. You know that knowing that exercise is the fountain of youth is not enough to actually get yourself to do it. You know that knowing you are incontinent or reading 500 articles on Akrasia is not enough to stop being dominated by it. You know the language I used in the last two paragraphs is incredibly loaded and filled with assumptions about the nature of your mind or your unique life circumstances or whatever. Doesn’t matter. You know all that. Does it help you exercise when you know you should?

Good news. The treatment is not new or special knowledge. I will show you three techniques that whack you out of Akrasia when used in conjunction. No new knowledge is required. They are simple techniques. They even have simple names: stopping, continuing, and starting. One per post. In that order. Be an instrumentalist about it.

Now what?

I can show you all three techniques right now. Ready?

Stop.

Humor me. Humor yourself. Raise your right index finger and keep it raised for four seconds. If you don’t have a right index finger, raise something else that you do have. Four, three, two, one. Drop it. Did you do it? Could you do it?

If you tried, it was easy, right? You did it.

I know. “You can’t be serious. This has nothing to do with Akrasia. Akrasia occurs when I act against my best judgement. This has nothing to do with my best judgement”.

Bingo.

See you next time.