The Research-Backed Strategy That Keeps You on the Path to Your GoalsNone By Samantha Boardman, M.D.
Before his voyage home, Ulysses is warned about the irresistible and deadly call of the Sirens. Countless sailors before him had fallen prey to their seductive song and drowned as a result. Recognizing he won’t be able to control himself in the face of such temptation, Ulysses instructs his men to bind him to the mast of the ship.
Behavioral science research suggests that Ulysses was onto something. By tying himself to the mast, he was utilizing what researchers call a “commitment device.” A commitment device is something that prevents one from making impulsive decisions when temptation beckons.
Commitment devices require an awareness that behavior and goals do not always go hand in hand. For example, even though I may wake up with the best intention to eat healthy, I know I cannot resist buying a croissant as I pass the bakery on the way to work. I can channel Ulysses by deciding to take a different route and avoid the temptation altogether.
Studies show that taking steps now to limit choices in the future is an effective strategy. Best of all, it bypasses the need to use self-control which is in limited supply anyway.
Commitment devices are powerful tools. They can help people quit smoking, lose weight, exercise more, and save money.
Here are a few examples of ways to use commitment devices to your advantage:
Use Small Plates
If the goal is to eat less, eating off of smaller plates will reduce how much you eat.
Schedule Workouts With An Exercise Partner
If the goal is to exercise more, knowing a friend is waiting for you will get you out the door.
Direct Deposit Into Savings Account