An entrepreneur often needs to exercise self-control (for example, in order to engage with boring but necessary tasks.) How good are you at predicting how well your future self will follow through and consistently exercise self-control?
One thing to take into account is the hot-cold empathy gap: we tend to consistently underestimate how much effect emotional state (such as being tempted, or being bored) has on decisions. The restraint bias is a more specific phenomenon where we overestimate how well we will exercise self-control in the future. The restraint bias is a logical consequence of the hot-cold empathy gap: when not tempted, we underestimate how much our future emotional state (such as desire, craving, curiosity, or boredom) will impact our future decisions when a temptation presents itself. The restraint bias may also be further fueled by some of our positive illusions.
- People who have not recently experienced pain are more likely to agree to endure future pain in exchange for small sums of money
- When in a low-craving state, smokers underestimate how much they will later value cigarettes when in a high-craving state
- People overestimate how willing they will be to embarrass themselves in the future by miming or dancing for money
- Never go to the grocery store hungry; people order more junk food for future meals when hungry than when satiated, as though either hungry people overestimate how much they will want junk food in the future, or satiated people underestimate
Recovering smokers with more inflated impulse-control beliefs exposed themselves to more temptation, which led to higher rates of relapse 4 months later. (The Restraint Bias: How the Illusion of Self-Restraint Promotes Impulsive Behavior)When calibrating how well you will resist future temptations, I advise looking at the following benchmarks:
- How well have you resisted similar temptations in the past?
- How often do other people resist similar temptations?
- remove temptations from your environment
- make a public commitment to achieve your goals
- make a bet with a friend that you will follow through
- install tools on your computer to help reduce time-wasting activities