Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely
“The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control:
Why We Can’t Make Ourselves Do What We Want to Do”
What a fascinating piece to review in the first week of a new college semester. The philosophy within tees up the course accordingly, and yes, I have found myself procrastinating in writing my critical summaries. Where to jump in and why, what is the motivation? Personal motivation can be difficult to come by in our harried and overstimulated world. Do we actually have a motivation to learn or do we just want to muddle through, gain a degree and hope for the best in landing a lofty job with a loftier paycheck? A paycheck we won’t save but will squander while ignoring our health, our future, and out personal truths? As the author states, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
I find it interesting that while obviously cynical about human nature, the author ponders questions such as, “Wouldn’t it just be wiser if Americans learned to save”…study, participate in preventative health care, and smart credit practices. These questions lead to the crux of the paper: “Why do we lose the fight with procrastination so frequently?” In meandering to find his answer, Mr. Ariely conducts research on three college classes, giving each class varying latitude in completing assignments. Naturally, the group with the highest performance is the group with the most imposed structure. Based on these findings, the author determines that when it pertains to other areas of our lives, mainly health care and financial management, we need a parental voice imposing upon our will to extract the most practical, cost effective, and timely outcomes.
This determination cuts against the grain of American freedom. It goes against our very foundations as free thinking individuals with personal capability and free will. It gives our very power away to another, seemingly, better equipped person, who is supposed to dictate and mold our lives and our outcomes. It establishes the belief that people are “sheep” and need to be tended, guided, led, and even forced to comply. And while this bristles to the core, I can’t help but be reminded of “The State of Nature” and “Lord of the Flies,” in which the conclusion decides that when left to our own devices, humans are no better than animals, incapable of self-governing, good will, and prudent behavior. It leads me to my eternally favorite question, “Are people inherently good?” I still don’t know, but, I agree wholeheartedly, we all procrastinate. Each and every one of us, to some extent, procrastinates something in our lives. The difference lies in whether we assume the outcome of our procrastination and if that outcome is enough motivation to halt the inevitable procrastination? If we can’t find the motivation within the confines of our own lives, and are compelled to give our power over to another, a dictator with a parental voice, how can we be sure that the dictator has our best interest at heart? How can we be sure they are not also procrastinating like the banking leaders? They procrastinated making a change but they also had blatant disregard for societal and individual financial well-being. If this is the case, then giving away our power is not the best answer, but cultivating meaningful motivation to live an un- procrastinated life.