A Philosophical Look at Weakness of Will (Akratic Behaviour)

Why do we have trouble doing what is in our best interest? Why don’t we all eat healthy food, do regular exercise, prospect for new clients, and make time for our meaningful relationships?

Why do people vote for administrations that have policies that are not in the voter’s best interest? Why do humans behave the way we do?

Socrates believed that it is impossible for a person to do one thing if he genuinely and in the fullest sense, holds that he ought instead to do something else.

If this is so, then people aren’t weak-willed or akratic but are making conscious, deliberate decisions considering all of the elements that influence the choices.

Let’s take Prospecting: On one level, we know that it will make our business more successful and our life more financially secure. It appears that it would be in our best interest to prospect. On a deeper level, we know that prospecting will make us vulnerable to rejection and judgment from others, and so we may justify that it is not in our best interest. It isn’t weakness of will that keeps us from doing the work; it’s our brain finding ways to avoid the risk of experiencing emotional pain.

Let’s look at Eating Healthy: On one level, we know that eating healthy food will give us more energy, improve our immune system, so we get sick less and add significantly to our life expectancy.
It appears that it would be in our best interest to eat healthy food. On a deeper level, our natural pursuit of happiness knows that we will receive great joy from eating something delicious and likely, not healthy. We justify the decision to eat the decadent dessert or the savory treat.

If you want to prospect more consistently, eat healthier food, or achieve any other significant goal, you don’t need a stronger will; you need more clarity about what is in your best interest. Does financial security trump vulnerability? Does the confidence that comes with a healthy body mean more to you than the short-term joy of a treat?

As we all prepare to emerge from this crazy pandemic, being conscious and deliberate about what we truly want for ourselves, our families, our businesses, and our community matters.

Now is the time to do the vital work of unearthing what is most important to us.