Dan Ariely on the Secret to Overcoming Procrastination

In this short video, Dan Ariely, Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University, boils down procrastination for us. He also mentions a self-mastery trick known as reward substitution, which he used to self-administer a painful, year-long-year treatment for Hepatitis C.

According to Dr. Ariely, since we’re not designed to think about long-term rewards, one of the tricks we can use is reward substitution. This involves creating benefits or rewards in the present that motivate us to behave in ways that serve our long-term goals. In other words, you change the environment in a way that gets you to behave in the right way because of the wrong reason.

“Procrastination is about the problem that we’re just not designed to think about the long-term. Like why would nature even get us to think about what will happen 30 or 50 or 60 years from now? So we think about now, and the now is much more powerful … That’s really the basic human problem; that there’s something that’s good for us in the future … but the steps we can take now are incredibly painful. So we often don’t do that … We are not designed to care about the future. We just can’t change that … So instead what we can do is we can create other benefits that will be more in the present; kind of import new benefits for the present.”

If you’re interested in hearing more, check out the longer version on Youtube here.

There are 5 brilliant comments

  1. I have to do sales calls, which I don’t want to do. I wonder how I could connect doing sales calls with a benefit, any ideas?

  2. So funny that I was directed to this site by my Grad professor! After watching the video and reading your article I used Ariely’s advice and have “tricked” myself into exercising and eating properly. I’m on my 9th day and already down 4 pounds. Thanks for the great advice!

  3. Very interesting! I can see how his movie trick would work for something he didn’t want to go through at all like that treatment. What’s so confusing about humans is that we procrastinate on things we actually enjoy doing! I enjoy my yoga practice but I still have yet to get back into doing it daily.

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