I have an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which I call for some respect for Congress’s fiscal cliff idea. Congress, back in 2011, couldn’t agree on a budget, so it came up with a way to force the hand of its future self. This idea of forcing one’s own future behavior dates back in our culture at least to Odysseus, who had his crew tie him to the ship’s mast so he wouldn’t be tempted by the sirens; and Cortes, who burned his ships to show his army that there would be no going back.
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Most of us don’t have crews and soldiers at our disposal, but many people still find ways to influence their future selves. Some compulsive shoppers will freeze their credit cards in blocks of ice to make sure they can’t get at them too readily when tempted. Some who are particularly prone to the siren song of their pillows in the morning place their alarm clock far from their bed, on the other side of the room, forcing their future self out of bed to shut it off. When MIT graduate student Guri Nanda developed an alarm clock, Clocky, that rolls off a night stand and hides when it goes off, the market beat a path to her door.
Thanks to The Times‘s nice writeup (“Dieting? Put Your Money Where Your Fat Is”), an Internet company that I helped found, www.stickK.com, has been getting a spike in commitment contracts. As readers of this blog know, stickK (shameless plug) is a commitment store that helps you stick to your goals. We’ll elicit support from your […] Read More »
James Hurman, a 30-year-old man from Auckland, N.Z., is selling his smoking habit to the highest bidder. (Apparently, he hasn’t run across StickK, or been offered a 0 percent interest bank account to quit.) Here’s what Hurman has to say for himself: I’ve smoked cigarettes for twelve years and I’ve tried all the usual ways […] Read More »
It is devilishly hard to lose weight. A randomized control year-long study looked at the impact of four different diets (Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets) on a group of overweight and obese subjects who were looking to lose weight. The diets produced only “modest” average weight loss of about 6.4 lbs (2.3 percent […] Read More »