Precommitment And Commitment Devices

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In Willpower, Dr. Roy Baumeister tells us:

The essence of this strategy is to lock yourself into a virtuous path. You recognize that you’ll face terrible temptations to stray from the path, and that your willpower will weaken. So you make it impossible—or somehow unthinkably disgraceful or sinful—to leave the path. Precommitment is what Odysseus and his men used to get past the deadly songs of the Sirens. He had himself lashed to the mast with orders not to be untied no matter how much he pleaded to be freed to go to the Sirens. His men used a different form of precommitment by plugging their ears so they couldn’t hear the Sirens’ songs. They prevented themselves from being tempted at all, which is generally the safer of the two approaches. If you want to be sure you don’t gamble at a casino, you’re better off staying out of it rather than strolling past the tables and counting on your friends to stop you from placing a bet. Better yet is to put your name on the list of people (maintained by casinos in some states) who are not allowed to collect any money if they place winning bets.”

In How to Change, Dr. Katy Milkman tells us:

“An effective solution to this problem is to anticipate temptation and create constraints (“commitment devices”) that disrupt this cycle. Whenever you do something that reduces your own freedoms in the service of a greater goal, you’re using a commitment device. An example is a “locked” savings account that prevents you from accessing your money until you’ve reached your savings goal.”

There you have it. You can make it impossible or unthinkable to leave the path. If you reduce your freedoms this way, you use a commitment device or precommitment.

I am using precommitment to complete this guide. I told dozens of people and gave multiple presentations that I would do it.

I could quit and not do the guide, but then I would be violating the second law of leadership, which is to do what you say you will do (DWYSYWD).