This week’s book learning is from Willpower by Roy Baumeister.
3 groups were asked to do the following in a 2 week period –
- Regulate emotions: Hold emotions back every time they felt a strong surge
- Regulate posture: Remind themselves to sit straight every once in a while
- Regulate food: Regulate what they ate
2 weeks later, the 3 groups were tested on their willpower by squeezing a hand grip as hard as possible for as long as possible. The “sit straight” group did markedly better.
But, when the participants were asked to retake their test after their mental energy was depleted, the 3 groups performed equally poorly.
It turns out that their willpower muscles hadn’t gotten powerful in the past 2 weeks but thanks to reminders to regulate posture, their stamina had increased! So, willpower depletion was a slower process.
Those who followed it up by regularly exercising self control by sitting straight got progressively better in the 2nd test too. Not surprisingly, they did better at other goals too. These students reported more physical activity, less alcohol and cigarettes, cleaner rooms, and healthier food – signs of improving self control.
“Willpower is like a muscle.”
Sketch by EB
So, how do we increase our willpower stamina? Concentrate on changing a habitual behavior –
– Remind ourselves to sit straight every once a while (e,g, set an alarm 3 times a day)
– Use a different hand for routine tasks like using the mouse with your left/weaker hand
– Change speech habits e.g. avoid “like,” “uhm” etc.
– Always keep your room clean and never leave dishes in the sink
– Avoid curses, taboo words and expressions of anger as they take willpower too