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Dan Ariely On How Your Environment Affects Your Willpower

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Last Played: August 23, 2021
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Behavioral economist Dan Ariely explains that humans choices depend less on our willpower and more on our environment. He goes on to offer his advice to David Sabarra. who despite a fulfilling career and loving family, feels miserable because he's addicted to being busy.
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For me, one of the biggest lessons in social science over the last you know, 40 50 years has been that we make decisions as a function of the environment that we're in. You put people in one environment, they make one type of decisions. You put them in a different kind of environment and make a different type of decision. And because of that, human freedom is not in our kind of ability to make decisions. It's in our ability to put ourselves into environment that would lead to better outcomes. You know, what I'd love to do now is listen together to a bit of the conversation that I had with David Sabara, who's struggling with dizziness and feeling addicted to business. So let's listen to his story. And then I'd love to hear your thoughts. Okay, I I don't know. I spent a long time the last couple of months trying to figure out what's wrong with me. So I have a terrific life. I have. I have a wonderful job, a great career. You know, uh, I feel like a happy marriage, or kids are doing fine. Uh, you know, I have every all the blessings in the world, and I feel grateful for them. I just sort of go around feeling mild, be miserable all the time. And I felt like I was just running from one activity to the next, and I really have tried to hack this up and figure out, um, what exactly is going on here and also really trying to provide for myself a lot of what I talk about. I'm a clinical psychologist by training, and I have a psychotherapy practice and I talked with People are trying to figure these kinds of things out all the time and sort of step back and look at it in a way that I might sort of advise my clients to do in my practice. And that's how I ended up on realizing coming to the conclusion that I am perhaps addicted to, well, everything that you described sounds pretty great. It is pretty great. It is pretty great if you can sort of drop an anchor into your experience of it. But it's it's just sort of the piece to me is getting like my numbingly fast and we're trying to also find time to buy a new car in our family and my son keeps saying, you know, all you have to do is like, go in there and figure, you know, we know which car. I mean, you know, just go in there. I was like, I can't even think for a minute like about doing that. And so just for me, the worst part of it all is the sense of being frayed, like the fabric being afraid or being frenzied. Frayed is maybe, like I don't have the bandwidth for anymore. I'm nearly exhausted and frenzied is like, I have this monkey mind that is like jumping from one thing to the next. And I can't focus. I can't think clearly. I just I feel exhausted by the way I'm turning over things because the next thing is coming to the next thing is coming to the next thing. So, Dan, what do you make of that? He talks about feeling addicted to being busy and frenzied and frayed, and he doesn't have much bandwidth. So it's actually a combination of many, many forces, and some of them are wonderful, right? So So the first thing is that life gives us lots and lots of opportunities imagine you were a farmer 200 years ago. You got up in the morning. What are your options? Basically, go and work the field. Then you're going to work the field. You know you can take a bathroom break but can eat a little bit. But that's about it now. We have a tremendous amount of things that we could choose between. This freedom is amazing, but it also means that we often accept too many things from the beginning. So what we have and I'm terrible. It is as well is. It's very hard to say no. So what happened is we say yes, too often. And now we have too many things on our plates, and it has kind of two elements to it. The first one is we have too many things on our plates. But it's also stressful because now we need to manage multiple things at the same time. And we spend some time on the management of which one do we do in which one do we don't? And I don't know about you. But when I try to meditate like you know, I try from time to time I close my eyes in 7 to 10 seconds. I get my to do list, right, which basically, which basically come and say Okay, what somebody to do is which one of things I need to make sure I'm not dropping and and what we have is we have a cost that is a part of this management system of Okay, I have 25 projects. Which one do I need to make progress on? You know, let's listen again to David Sabara. And here's some of the ways he sees contemporary culture driving these behaviors and some of the strategies he's tried to overcome his own addiction to business.
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