Do you have willpower? Are you able to resist the temptation of a cookie while on a diet, or checking your facebook while you should be doing homework?
The theory that has been misleading people is that willpower is connected to a person’s biological makeup, and that the reason they don’t have the willpower to walk away from temptation is purely because of biology. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and the only thing that has the power to override your willpower, is you.
In a recent study, psychologist Veronika Job proved that willpower and self-control are actually related to working hard and exercising certain parts of your brain. “When you work hard, you’re energized to work more; that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one – then people successfully exert more willpower” (Job). Job took two groups of people, giving one group a simple task that required no self-control (crossing off every e in a typed text), and the other group a task that required little self-control (crossing off some e’s according to complex rules). After these two tests, the groups were required to perform a tricky cognitive test that involved a lot of self-control to avoid making mistakes. The first group performed well, believing that their “supply” of willpower had not been used up yet, while the second group felt that theirs had depleted, and performed poorly, except for a few people that felt willpower is not limited and performed well.
This study shows that anyone can believe that willpower is unlimited, and if some people can believe it, and prove it, then why shouldn’t you?
In another study, Job followed 153 college students, taking note of them over 5 weeks (including finals week). During stressful times, the students who believed in unlimited willpower ate less junk food, procrastinated less, and earned better grades than their “pessimistic” friends.
The sign that people generally look for to tell that their willpower has been limited is fatigue. If people begin to feel tired, they start to slack off because they believe their “battery” has just run out and they need to wait for it to “charge”. People who believe in unlimited willpower simply dig deeper to better recourses, refusing to give up.
So the next time you have a test coming up, and you start to slack off, think of what kind of person that makes you. Are you the type of person who can be so easily defeated by fatigue? Or are you the type that refuses to give up until the task at hand is done? Because only you have the power to make that choice!