I’ve stumbled across several interesting articles on the science of willpower recently. This is a good example of the genre (though I’d take issue with the “plant based diet” item, and I confess I haven’t yet had a chance to watch the video): The Science of Willpower.
Just to summarize some of the ideas that stuck with me:
- Willpower is a limited resource.
- Your willpower is generally strongest earlier in the day.
- You also have better willpower when you are well rested (preferably eight hours of sleep), not hungry, and not under stress. (And good luck with all that!)
- Long term exercise of willpower can increase your reserves.
This was the first time I’d encountered the concept of Ego Depletion: this notion of willpower being expendable. I’m not sure it’s quite so clear cut as all that, as if you have a willpower bank with exactly x willpower minutes to withdraw per day, but looking at my own patterns, I can totally buy into the idea that willpower can be sapped by too many demands.
Which may well be one reason New Year’s resolutions fail: you suddenly put all sorts of new demands on your willpower at once, and this right after you’ve almost certainly spent the holidays encouraging your willpower to atrophy into flabby mush. It’s a fine recipe for failure.
Flashback: June, right after I got out of the Air Force. I could finally have a pet again, and I bought something I’d wanted since I was a kid: a Siamese kitten.
Mom took me to pick him up, in a little town not far from Montpelier, VT. He was not the cutest kitten in the world. He looked sort of like a white rat with a Jimmy Durante nose–said nose appearing gargantuan since it was nearly the only part of him that had darkened to seal point.
Driving home down windy Rt. 2, I held him tightly, and we bandied name possibilities. Continue reading
My year got off to a bit of a rocky start. I woke up on January 1st with a cold, so my planned resolutions–pray more, exercise, write daily, eat right, practice music, etc., etc.–all pretty much dissolved as I devolved into a miserable ball of soggy Kleenex and sneezes. I’ve spent much of the year thus far curled up on the couch, binge watching police procedurals on Netflix and sniffling.
So much for shiny starts.
I’m disappointed in myself and in the year. But you know, it may be just as well. Most years, I start off tiptoeing into the year, determined to keep it as perfect as possible as long as possible. This year–not to mix too many metaphors–I started straight off camping with 2015. I’ve seen it in its unwashed early morning state. I know it occasionally snores or chews with its mouth open.
Expectations have been lowered, perhaps. But I’d like to think they’ve just been stripped of artificial glow, my goals parsed to a core that’s solid and true. OK, so maybe I won’t have a perfect track record for the whole year, but that wasn’t going to happen anyway, was it? What matters is that I get up at least one more time than I fall.
Onward and upward.