051 What you need to know about willpower

Why does our fervor to keep New Year resolutions drop off so precipitously in such a short time? Maybe it’s because we don’t really understand how willpower works. Here’s what you need to know.

What you need to know about willpower

This week’s Inspire Me quote is from Os Guinness:

“When it comes to willpower, will is common but power is rare.”

If we want to live powerful lives, we must possess more than intent. We need to put our willpower to work for us. Yet, according to researchers, willpower (or self-control) is listed as the least likely virtue people use to describe themselves Willpower seems to be something we all want more of, but fail miserably at knowing how to increase it.

Leary and Armin discuss the four kinds of willpower: emotional control, impulse control, performance control, and thought control, and why it is important for us to be aware of how willpower works in order to move into a new beginning.

Here’s what you need to know about willpower, drawing from the writings of willpower researchers Roy Baumeister & John Tierney in their book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (see a link to Leary’s review below):

  1. Finite. We have a finite amount of willpower to expend during the day.
  2. One reservoir. All the decisions we make through the day draw upon the willpower store that we have.
  3. Uses glucose. Willpower depletes glucose, leaving us craving it usually late in the day.
  4. Depleted indiscriminately. Different decisions to engage or disengage, chronic pain, sickness and even being in a messy room can deplete our willpower reserves.
  5. Improving capacity. While your self-control resources may be finite, your overall capacity can be improved. Simple changes in one area (e.g. even to sit more erect) can result in improved willpower capacity overall.
  6. Replenished. Willpower is replenished by sleep and low-glycemic index foods. Sugars burn quickly and can give temporary replenishment, but the bust that accompanies its consumption may leave you even more fatigued.

This week’s Challenge Me:

Look at the goals you are pursuing. If you are unhappy with the progress in an area, perhaps you have chosen too many things to do at the same time, overly taxing your willpower reserves. Decide which one change you will focus on first, then add another after that change has been habitualized.

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