Resist Acting “Akrasia” for the Remainder of Your Quarantine
My brother wants to lose ten pounds. He’s off to a great start. He’s been waking up early and going for a run, he’s been cooking all his own meals, and he’s been skipping dessert, which is his absolute favorite. But the other day, we ordered Italian food. And although A stuck to his salad with grilled chicken, the restaurant gave us some homemade cookies as a way to thank us for trusting and supporting their business.
I watched my brother’s eyes scan over the plastic container of warm, sweet, chocolate chip delicacies. I saw his hand come up and then immediately go back down. He shook his head to himself, thinking nobody was watching.
My dad reached for a cookie and bit down. Wow, did they look soft. I decided to try one as well. Wow, they were soft. My mom got in on the action too, gushing over the wonderful ratio of chocolate chips the cookie contained. Finally, A swooped his hand into the container and grabbed a treat. “I’ll just have one.” He smiled.
This is the concept of akrasia. In this scenario, A had acted akratically.
You’ve been home for weeks now, months even. You and your family and loved ones are thankfully safe and healthy and happy. You’ve been reading the articles about positivity, watching the videos about how to get through this in a way that is beneficial for your physical and mental health, and honestly, aside from the devastation and tremendous pain you feel for the families of those directly and indirectly affected by the virus, things in your life are going pretty well.
You’ve taken quarantine as an opportunity to deeply connect with your family, those you live with, and those you chat with on Zoom. You’ve reconnected with old friends and made new ones. Your sleep has been better than ever. You took up drawing again, a hobby you used to love. You’ve been exercising daily, sticking to your routines, and just like my brother, you are focusing on watching what you eat, so you can shed some unwanted pounds. But also, just like A, you’ve been adhering to the same diet for a while now, and you think that it’ll be no big deal if you open up the snack cupboard and sneak in a donut or an Oreo here and there.
Again, this is akrasia. You would be acting akratically.
Akrasia is a Greek concept which translates to lacking command. But more so, it is described as a lack of self-control, a sudden lapse of judgment, and an inability to use your willpower to resist an undesirable temptation. Akrasia is the reason you open the snack cupboard. It’s the reason you have dessert. It’s why you take a bite into that delicious cookie. It’s the state of mind in which you do something you know you should not.
Think about the wonderful progress you’ve made in getting to where you want to be. Think about all the treats you have skipped and the sacrifices you have made. In the moment, it may feel like it’s no big deal to act akratically. But this akratic behavior can spiral. It becomes a mindset that says you can waver, you can cheat; that doing something morally wrong just one time, doesn’t make it wrong at all. But we know this is not true.
To prevent this akratic behavior, I have one very simple suggestion. Tell yourself that akrasia will not get the best of you. Literally, say those words aloud. “Akrasia will not get the best of me.” The more you hear this statement and let it sink in, the better off you will be. And don’t just stop with the rest of your quarantine. Resist the temptation to act akratically for the rest of your life, with whatever you are pursuing!