When asked if we’d like to have more self-control, most of us would raise our hands. We can all recall moments when we succumbed to temptation or lacked the willpower to act when we knew we should be doing the exact opposite.
We gradually lose our edge as we go through our hectic routines; we become tired and our focus wanders; motivation plummets, and we no longer have the strength to resist terrible judgments.
This is Referred To As Ego Depletion.
The term “ego” was popularised by Sigmund Freud. He felt that the ego was in charge of keeping the id, a more basic and unconscious entity, from making impetuous demands. The ego would sometimes have power over the id, while the id would sometimes have the upper hand.
When the ego is depleted, the impulsive id has a better chance of winning.
The Marshmallow Must Be Resisted
Walter Mischel demonstrated that differences between persons begin early in one of the most well-known experiments on self-control.
He made the kids choose between an enticing marshmallow right now or two if they could wait 15 minutes. The persuasiveness of the id was naturally enhanced by children sitting in front of tasty treats.
This study was notable not because it revealed a difference in children’s willpower, but because those who were able to stop themselves went on to live more academically successful lives.
Another study, completed in New Zealand in 2010, tracked 1,000 people for 32 years, starting from birth. During this time, the researchers obtained data on the subjects’ willpower, both self-reported and observed.
Those who had more self-control later in life were happier, healthier, and wealthier, regardless of intelligence, color, or socioeconomic class.
Researchers found that self-control was the only personality attribute that predicted a student’s grade-point average when they compared their grades to almost three dozen personality qualities.
Willpower Exercises by Roy Baumeister
Baumeister is a self-control expert and the author of the book ‘Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.’ He discovered the similarity between willpower and a muscle throughout his research.
Just like performing too many pushups causes you to lose the ability to lift your arms, having to control your impulsiveness causes you to lose the ability to do so. However, the more you practice, the more powerful you will become.
Taking a brief infusion of glucose might also provide a temporary physical or mental boost, which can help you resist the temptation to give in.
This is where the resemblances stop. Instead of depleting a reservoir of energy, Michael Inzlicht and Brandon Schmeichel argue that the loss of willpower is caused by a shift in motivation, attention, and emotion.
They discovered that providing an incentive — the fact that their effort would contribute to Alzheimer’s research — was enough to inspire individuals beyond the ego-depleted control group.
There’s also the theory that our lack of self-control stems from how we frame the problem: “I’ve been good all day, worked hard, went to the gym, I deserve that piece of cake, I’ve earned it.”
If our attitude is what determines our level of self-control, changing the way we look at our activities and changing the way we think could lead to limitless self-control.
There Is No End in Sight
By comparing two sets of individuals, Veronika Job, Carol Dweck, and Gregory Walton aimed to investigate this possibility. One group believed they had a finite amount of willpower, whereas the other claimed there was no such limit.
They discovered that those who believed there was no limit to their willpower showed no evidence of ego depletion, whereas those who believed there was a limit to their willpower experienced the usual effects.
Our self-theories appear to dictate how we will be affected by weariness, and if willpower is a significant predictor of future success, it makes a compelling case for changing our mental models.
It’s easier said than done, though. Because our lives are so full of habits, both physical and mental, changing the way we think about and react to ego depletion is analogous to quitting a bad habit.
The most effective approach to achieve this is to replace it with a more beneficial habit.
Restraint may not increase your self-control in the same way that exercise does, but it may assist you in shifting your thinking from “I can’t do this” to “I can do anything.”
Megan Oates and Ken Cheng discovered that using willpower in one area boosts it in all others. Students who were forced to participate in an exercise program or taught how to handle their money scored better in other areas, such as smoking and drinking less and studying more.
Over time, your negative behaviors and restricted view of willpower will be replaced by good ones and an unwavering ability to control your impulsivity. What do you think of your determination? Do you think it’ll go on forever?