Let’s Make a Deal!

Will power. Most of us want more of it. We lament when we lack it. It’s a limited resource that we get new every morning like the milk that used to be delivered in glass bottles to the door. That will power resource is depleted one decision at a time, until at last we have none left. Late night pig-outs, weekend binges, even end of year romances might just be a symptom of depleted will power as much as they are a sign of moral decay.

In the original TV show “Let’s Make a Deal” TV host Monty Hall would pit contestants against themselves, offering choices and opportunities to trade and negotiate along the way. There came the classic line, “Deal or no-deal?” at which point the contestant had to choose. Images of this show came back to me as I read “The Will Power Instinct” by author Kelly McGonigal recently. In it, Kelly brings home the power of making a deal with your past or future self.

Think of it this way: You know you have a decision to make tomorrow – something simple like going for a run at 6am. but your track record has been poor – sleeping in, making excuses. So you find a way to make the decision ahead of time. You might set an alarm, invite a friend to text you at 5:45am, turn a bedroom light on a timer. That way your present self can’t buy out or bail in the moment – because your past self already decided.

Or, to use his future self example, you make a decision today with your future self. You say, “I’ll tell you what, if we make these ten sales calls today, I’ll get a coffee on the way home.” or “If you lose those ten pounds, in a month;s time we’ll go celebrate at that favourite restaurant you like.” Your present – needful self – is making a deal with your future, slimmed down version.


Kelly McGonigal, “The Will Power Instinct – How self control works,” 2012, chapter 9.

Image copyright “Let’s Make a Deal” CBS broadcasting service, 1969.