« What's the most infuriating part of cross-border shopping? | Main | Signs you're about to be laid-off »

August 25, 2021

North Americans lacking when it comes to self control: Study

From a coterie of self-sufficient farmers and thrifty merchants, the United States has evolved into a country where people not only want more than they have but generally want more than is good for them.

Book So says Daniel Akst, in his new book We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess.

It's an interesting treatise on how Americans (don’t gloat; Canadians fare almost as poorly) have slowly become consumers who simply don't know when to stop — even though their habits are bad for their health, finances, and the planet they live on.

Akst estimates that overeating, smoking, unprotected sex, drinking too much alcohol and similar excesses contribute to close to half of the deaths every year in the U.S.

But while humans are evolutionarily geared to crave immediate gratification, we can learn tricks to avoid self-sabotage.

 “A lot of the behavior we call addiction is really a love of pleasure that carries the force of habit,” he maintains. “If we hold ourselves responsible for our behavior — none of which is entirely voluntary — we are more likely to consciously direct our actions rather than succumbing to impulse.”

Instead, he suggests, think ahead. Know when and where you're likely to lose control.

Rather than succumb to temptation, set up roadblocks, either by hiding credit cards or setting up commitment contracts with third parties like stickK.com, a site that allows you to make a legally binding agreement to do (or not do) a certain thing.

If you fail — and you can appoint a referee to decide — then you forfeit the money, which the site will give to a friend or cause you've chosen.

Are you the consummate consumer? Have you made any attempts to cut back? How are things working out?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



Post a comment


Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...