Akrasia Effect: How To Overcome It?

March 27, 2023


Written by UJJI Team


The History of Akrasia

The word originates from the Ancient Greek phrase "lacking authority (over oneself)." Back then, it was also the topic of discussion for many philosophers, including Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. For example, Socrates poses a straightforward query in Plato's dialogue Protagoras: If someone believes a particular behaviour is the best course of action, why would they take a different path of action?

In essence, Socrates and Plato believed that akrasia did not exist, believing that "no one moves deliberately towards the terrible" and that doing so constituted a moral failing. Aristotle, on the other hand, approaches the concept more subtly.

He is aware that akrasia comes in two flavours. One may become illogical or lose their sense of reason when they are pushed by emotion. But on the other hand, emotions can overpower you, causing you to make terrible choices.

Weakness is the root of the second form of akrasia. In contrast to the passionate person, the weak-willed person is fully aware of the repercussions but acts against their better judgement.

In the end, Aristotle admits that akrasia does exist and is mostly predicated on opinion rather than reality. If we disagree, it's due to our opinions, not our motivations. According to this concept, akrasia is a lack of self-control, although not all akratic actions reveal a weak will.

You can have a strong will and still be arrogant when acting against your interests. Intention determines willpower weakness, yet akratic action can occur without intention. Going against your better judgement, whether you want to or not, is the fundamental quality.

Akrasia Definition

"Akrasia is the feeling of knowing that doing something would be best for you but choosing not to do it. One of the most pervasive and persistent obstacles to action is akrasia."
"Weakness of Will" is how the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes akrasia.

What Is Akrasia?

Akrasia is a long-standing issue, and you may find discussions regarding its origin in works by Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. The Greek word akrasia, which means "lacking control/command over oneself," is the source of the word.

Aristotle contended that Akrasia results from erroneous beliefs about what someone "should" do, contrary to Plato and Socrates, who saw it as a moral flaw. For the sake of the general reader, we could remark that procrastination and akrasia are connected but not the same.

Procrastination frequently happens when you have made up your mind to finish a task but keep pushing it off till a later time without actively opting to accomplish it then. Procrastination, for instance, is when you have "design four strategies to attract customers by 2 pm" on your to-do list but spend hours without producing a single one.

Without adding it to your list, it's the sense you "should" accomplish something. Whether you are considering changing a habit or starting a new set of behaviours, you feel akrasia. However, the notion that one "should" does not result in action.

Along with procrastination, Akrasia is one of the most prevalent and pervasive obstacles to getting things done.

Akrasia Effect

"A lack of self-control or the tendency to behave against one's better judgement is described as akrasia."

The absence of self-control in this situation is crucial. First, we need to complete the plans we make to accomplish them. Then, when it's time to work on them, we begin to deteriorate.

There is no curse or character defect associated with Akrasia. That is a decision. We decided against doing it, unlike the work we should have been performing.

The psychological condition known as temporal inconsistency explains why our minds tend to put off doing important chores. Humans frequently place a higher value on current rewards than on future ones.

But when pursuing objectives, we separate from the present state. It requires quick results.

As a result, the two states of our business— present and ours —are at odds. For the present state, the effects of inaction today are delayed. Furthermore, the long-term consequences and delayed returns make us believe immediate action is unnecessary.

How To Overcome Akrasia?

1. Work with a commitment mechanism

Victor Hugo invented a "commitment mechanism" when he kept his clothing away so he could concentrate on writing. A commitment device is a daily decision that guides your future behaviour. It is a technique for securing future behaviour, keeping you restricted from negative habits and bound to positive ones.

You can create a commitment device by focusing on a single step for your business. It will make things more manageable for your team members. Even athletes who must "make weight" for competition have been reported to leave their wallets at home the week before the weigh-in.

Even though the circumstances are different, the message remains the same: commitment devices can aid in planning your future behaviour. Instead of relying on willpower in the heat of the moment, look for ways to automate your behaviour in advance. Instead of being a victim of your future choices, take control of them.

2. Lessen the starting friction

Usually, the agony of putting off performing the work is worse than the guilt and irritation of delaying. Moreover, being in the middle of performing the task is typically less painful than procrastinating, according to Eliezer Yudkowsky.

Because beginning the task is difficult, not doing the work. The difficulty that keeps us from acting revolves around beginning behaviour. Work is frequently less painful to perform once you get started. It is more important to develop the habit of starting something new than worrying about whether or not the new activity will be successful.

You need to scale back your habits gradually. Build a ritual with all your heart and soul, and make it as simple as possible to begin. Wait until you've perfected the skill of turning up before you worry about the outcomes.

3. Make use of execution intentions.

When you declare your intent to start a given task at a particular point in the future, that is what an implementation intention means. As an illustration, you might write, "I'll complete the target of 200 sales calls by [DATE] at [TIME]."

Several effective research has demonstrated the beneficial effects of implementation goals on everything from fitness routines to flu vaccinations. For example, according to the flu shot study, employees who wrote down the precise date and time they planned to get their flu vaccination were considerably more likely to follow through weeks later examined a group of 3,272 employees at a Midwestern corporation.

It may sound obvious to imply that planning will help. Still, as I've previously discussed, implementation goals can increase your likelihood of carrying out an activity by two to three times.

4. Give yourself a treat.

But keep in mind that excellent habits might be problematic. Instant gratification does not exist. We're likelier to stick to our task if we enjoy the process. We must devise strategies for bringing rewards. A strong reinforcer is receiving rewards. So why not utilise them?

According to the research, every task consists of three elements. First is the cue, which is a starting point for automated tasks. The task itself is then manifested in a routine. And now, a prize. The reward is crucial as your brain effectively learns to cling to a specific pattern and make it automatic. You can create rewards for your employees to motivate them to stick to their tasks and achieve their goals.


Akrasia is the condition where you know you ought to act, yet you do nothing. Procrastination, on the other hand, is when you know you should do something and set out the steps in a to-do list but keep putting it off because you have other, less "essential" things to accomplish, like chores.

If you want your employees to put things on time, one of the easiest ways is to offer them rewards. Want to know more about how to maximise your team's potential? Teams can build problem-solving, productivity, communications, leadership, and adaptability skills with UJJI's simple and enjoyable e-learning experience.

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