You know what the difference is between good habits and bad ones? Good habits, you have to work at.
In other words, they require discipline, which means willpower. In a recent post at the SharpBrains blog, Daniel Goleman offers good news and bad news about willpower.
The bad news is that research suggests we have a fixed amount of it. Apply it to one challenge, and you have less available for the next.
This may explain why a (reasonably) vigorous workout for me is often followed, some hours later, by a fuller meal than I might actually need.
The good news, says Goleman, is that we can increase that reservoir of willpower. He compares it to a muscle, which gets stronger with exercise.
(If you like Goleman’s post, you’ll probably like Sharon Begley’s book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain. As I noted here some time ago, the title sounds like a self-help nostrum, but Begley in fact assembles and makes clear a wealth of research-based understanding about the brain.)
CC-licensed daily-discipline photo by blue out.
3 thoughts on “Willpower: limited, but not fixed”
Kia ora e Dave
. . . and it’s not just confined to willpower. “The brain is like a muscle“. It can tire just as a muscle tires, which is why you run out of willpower if it’s used repetitively over a short period. But just like a muscle, its capacity expands with exercise.
Though physiologically the chemistry is not the same, the principles certainly seem to be very similar.
The other side of the equation, Ken, is that there are more than a few brains in absolute mint condition. No wear and tear whatsoever.
Kia ora to that Dave.
I look on the mint brain this way – it is like the new canvas that the genius artist never got round to using: pristine, well designed and with a potential to support a masterpiece.