Self governing, Eric Clapton and Hyperbolic Discounting

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One of the essential values for leaders is self-governance. It is crucial for the leader and everyone they influence to be self-governing. So, the leader works onself-governance and teaches others to be self-governing.

Okay, but what does that have to do with Eric Clapton, and what the heck is hyperbolic discounting? I hear you, and there will be a simple explanation later!

What GR8 Leaders teaches about being self-governing has excellent research to back it up. Roy Baumeister did the research. In fact, please get his book, Willpower. He has some great details about self-control, willpower, or self-governance. His book is an excellent resource and fun to read.

That brings me to one of my favorite passages in the book—the discussion about hyperbolic discounting. If you again said, "What?" you are just like me when I read those words in Willpower.

Please keep reading because hyperbolic discounting impacts your life every day.

Self governing, Eric Clapton and Hyperbolic Discounting

Eric Clapton as Pilgrim

In Willpower, the story of Eric Clapton’s relapse as an alcoholic is skillfully used to help us understand hyperbolic discounting. His relapse was tied to his lack of resisting the temptation to stop for a drink. Of course, that type of action illustrates how we all are easily undone by hyperbolic discounting.

"Think of Eric Clapton on that Saturday evening as a repentant sinner who is literally on the road to salvation, like the hero of Pilgrim’s Progress, the seventeenth-century allegory. Suppose that he, too, was journeying toward Celestial City. While traveling through the open countryside, he can see the city’s far-off golden spires and keeps heading in their direction.

This evening he looks ahead and notices a pub strategically situated at a bend in the road so that it’s directly in front of travelers. From this distance, it looks like a small building, and he still keeps his eyes fixed on the grander spires of the Celestial City in the background. But as Eric the Pilgrim approaches the pub, it looms larger, and when he arrives, the building completely blocks his view. He can no longer see the golden spires in the distance. Suddenly, Celestial City seems much less important than this one little building. And thus, our pilgrim’s progress ends with him passed out on the pub’s floor."

Roy Baumeister, Willpower, page 183

Self-governing Keeps You from Getting Too Close

A simple way to illustrate what happened to Eric Clapton is to use your hand. Look at an object that is near you. Now, hold up your hand with your fingers closed together, fully extend your arm, and raise your hand to be directly in the line of sight with the object.

Notice how much your hand blocks the view of the object. At this point, you still see the object because your hand is not close enough to your eyes to block your view entirely. With your hand still extended, you are ready to see what happens with "Hyperbolic Discounting."

Start moving your hand slowly closer to your eyes. As your hand gets closer, it blocks more of the view of the object. And with your hand even closer, the less you see the object. Finally, at some point, you will only see your hand.

That is what happens to all of us when we are being tempted. At first, temptation is just a part of our view, but as we continue to think about and get closer to it, it becomes all that we see.

When all you see is the temptation, it turns into actions that result in regrets.

Pre-deciding Is the Antidote to Hyperbolic Discounting

Are you highly self-governing? If so, you may not end up on the pub floor like Eric. But, only some people are self-governing enough to walk by the pub if alcohol is their weakness.

Like most people, you probably do not want to end up on the pub floor. So, here is a great way to preserve your self-governance—pre-decide. Mr. Baumeister uses the term pre-commit, which is good, but I like the term pre-decide, which I learned from Pastor Don Geiger in the 1970s.

You may be self-governing in many areas of your life, but there are always areas that are less so. Would you agree?

That means that pre-decide is a good option for you. And here is a surprise: when you pre-decide, you don't use your self-governance! Really? How does that work? 

Well, you don't put yourself on the edge of the slippery slope! AND it always helps to be as drastic as necessary—another of Don Geiger's great statements. Create new structures to stay clear of temptation. If you are on a diet, pre-decide not to visit that favorite fast-food place or even drive down that street. And pre-decide not to go down the dessert aisle in your grocery store!

Take time to think about those things that are your big temptations. Please do not let them blossom into full-blown addictions - PRE-DECIDE!

It isn't too late to pre-decide. This may be your first step out of your addiction. It helps you be self-governing.


better life, increase self-control, independence, more fulfillment, self-control, self-governance, temptation

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