No hagas hoy lo que tu otro “yo” puede hacer mañana, Laura Marajofsky, procrastination, Dan Ariely, Joseph Heath, Joel Anderson, "Procrastination and the Extended Will", “extended will”, "distributed willpower", "divided self", Dexter, The United States of Tara, Bored to death, software “Freedom", teoría del “ser dividido”, “la idea del ser dividido”, múltiples personalidades, múltiples “yo”, "voluntad extendida", “mi otro “yo”, procrastinación, “no dejes para mañana lo que puedes hacer hoy”, ezquizofrenia en la TV, productos artísticos esquizofrénicos, ezquizofrenia en el arte, sistema previsional chileno, jubilación Chile, “Don't do today what your other “self” can do tomorrow”, Self divided theory, multiple personality, multiple self , me, myself and I, schizophrenia on TV, schizofrenic art productions, schizofrenia in art, Chilean retirement saving plan, What does procrastination tell us about ourselves James Surowiecki The New Yorker, What we can learn about procrastination James Surowiecki The New Yorker, Want People to Save? Force Them Dan Ariely MIT’s Technology Review, First Person Plural Paul Bloom The Atlantic, The Magic of Procrastination Dan Ariely Predictably Irrational.
The medical prescription whose duration the doctor has just extended will be carefully put in a pocket. From then onward, the sheet will go to the diary or any other notebook, and it will be carried for an indefinite period of time until someday, after succumbing to the temptation of leaving it for later over and over again, we will realize it has expired again. This situation may be familiar to many, and it may not only happen with tedious tasks, but also with more significant aspects of our lives.
The peculiar habit of postponing or putting off something we must do, even when we are fully aware that, in the future, it will be counterproductive (i.e. procrastination), has been frequently referred to in contemporary literature. Thus, in the last years we have witnessed the consolidation of a current that supports a dangerous conceptual line considering the culture it promotes: the idea that, given the individual’s increasing difficulty in handling their will in a conscious and rational way, it is necessary to have some kind of external control (which is sometimes determined by the individual himself.)
Two cases mentioned a short time ago by Dan Ariely in the MIT’s Technology Review point precisely in that direction. On one side, we have an experiment carried out with young students that should hand in three assignments every semester, in which they were given the chance of either handing in all the assignments together at the end of the term, or choosing a deadline for each assignment in advance. There was no extra credit for those who handed in the assignments before the end of the course, but they were penalized for every day late that went by once they’ve already chosen a deadline. In opposition to what we may consider as the best option (handing in all the assignments at the end of the semester to have more time and avoid penalties), most students chose handing in the assignments separately. Ariely explains that this is related to the fact that, knowing that choosing a later deadline implies a higher risk of “dragging one’s feet”, many chose early deadlines in order to force themselves to make the assignments in time. Similarly, Ariely also praises the retirement system applied by the Chilean government which, recognizing people’s difficulty in saving money, has a law that deducts 11% of their salary in order to be saved for their retirement. As the writer explains in reference to this view: “Behaviorally, it recognizes that people are not good at two aspects of financial planning for retirement -deciding to save and eliminating risk in later years- and it forces them to act in a better way.”
Also the philosophers Joseph Heath and Joel Anderson have elaborated on this subject in their paper "Procrastination and the Extended Will", referring to the “extended will” as that extra assistance needed by many to function. As regards the discipline techniques used in decision-making, the authors consider that the most intuitive way of forcing ourselves to do something, especially in the event of an anticipated willpower failure, is preauthorizing another person to impose control upon us (“social strategies”.)
Moreover, they also explain that even though -luckily- willpower can be trained, the truth is that exercising it constantly becomes an exhausting activity. Thus, we get to the concept of “distributed willpower”, which helps to explain that most people do not try to overcome a lack of initiative, but, in any case, most people arrange their lives in such a way to avoid “coming across” many situations that call for the exercise of their willpower -something like “economizing” on this lacking resource, instead of trying to regenerate it.
This kind of facilitating views that urge us to suspend our own determination in order to save energy, or not to get all worked up, do not help at all in the development of an independent and efficient individual management. One can hardly expect people to exercise their motivation, or train their capacity of reaction, when what is being fostered in this context is the opposite.
But there is another turn of the screw in this whole thing of postponements and lethargy. In an article that analyzes the causes for these conscious delays published this week in The New Yorker, the theory of the "divided self" is cited as a feasible explanation for the phenomenon. According to this theory, given a person’s division into several facets, what happens is that there is a conflict of interests between the different “selves”, therefore, many times certain activities end up being put off. With plenty of cynicism the article’s author says: “The idea of the divided self, though discomfiting to some, can be liberating in practical terms, because it encourages you to stop thinking about procrastination as something you can beat by just trying harder.” In short, if you cannot be responsible for your actions, you can always blame your other “self.”
Discourses that render us inactive, such as this one, abound in the middle of the “dilly-dally” era, in a time when we can see an everlasting parade of more and more schizophrenic artistic products (check the TV series "Dexter", "The United States of Tara" or "Bored to death".) Probably, the presence of these concepts is increasing -and being accepted- so much nowadays, because they are totally connected to the cultural movements of these times: on the one hand, a strategic rearrangement once one has come to terms with his incapacity to deal with his own contradictions; on the other hand, a restriction of personal freedom when facing a great variety of options.
The fact that a program designed to block an Internet connection so that the user does not get distracted is called -ironies aside- “Freedom” seems to reflect people’s current position quite clearly. Why does the idea of our own decisions, and not a determinant, guiding our behavior seems so unreachable? If the conscious delay of important goals is considered a failed “negotiation” with ourselves, how can we optimize this evaluation process while trying to make our will and our intelligence help us to use our -real- freedom more virtuously?