Forget Willpower! Think Social Engineering for Behavior Change

Depending on your willpower is surely a lost cause for impulse control

Posted May 01, 2012

After conducting psychotherapy for 30 years I must admit that I now believe that social engineering is a better way to manage the "willpower problem" for behavior change. Sadly, many people get so down on themselves for not having adequate willpower and impulse control. While they intend to eat and drink less, work or study harder, exercise more, save money, and so forth they find that they just can’t change their behaviors once habits have formed. For example, research reports that 2/3 of Americans are overweight and about 2/3 of those who start an exercise program drop out within several months. Once established, behavior is hard to change….really really hard!

So, forget about willpower and try to design your life and your environment in a way to support behaviors that you want to change. After all, an alcoholic shouldn’t work as a bartender and a bulimic shouldn’t work in an ice crème store. Manage your environment and socially engineer yourself into desired behavior.  Consider just letting go of the idea of willpower completely.

So, what do you think?