A Little Something About Willpower

Posted: July 15, 2012 in Writing

I’m not 100% exactly what category this post falls under, but I am sure that it will be helpful to some.

I was reading the latest issue of Kiplinger’s the other night when I came across an article about willpower. I’m sure that there are many that can sympathize with the idea of running out of willpower. This is usually followed with giving in to a desire and then feeling guilty about it afterward. Well, fellow human, stop the guilt. It turns out that willpower is not limitless. Everyone has a finite of willpower that can be used up in the right (wrong) situations. The article pointed to a study done somewhere (I know, not the best referencing, but I don’t have the article in front of me and I don’t want to lose my flow) where people were put in a room with broccoli and chocolate cookies to eat. One group could eat whatever they choose and the other group was told to not touch the cookies. Oh, and both groups had not eaten in a good amount of time. Now, after some time had passed they then gave both groups the same unsolvable puzzle. The group that did not have to exert any willpower to avoid the cookies took longer to give up on the puzzle than those that had to use their willpower to avoid the cookie.

See, just like I told my mom all those times I gave in to temptation, “I couldn’t help myself”.

I see that some of you are thinking that you now have carte blanche to do whatever you want. Hold on just a second there. What I am saying is that you have to make sure that you don’t put yourself in a position where your willpower will be overtaxed. This is true both in teaching and in writing. It takes a lot of effort to do either of those jobs well. There are times where you go to your job by willing yourself out of bed. If you just spent a ton of effort denying yourself something that is trivial (a small square of chocolate perhaps), then that effort to go to work will be herculean. If, however, you make it so that your little desires are at least dampened then the amount of willpower needed to go to the classroom or the keyboard everyday will be lessened.

So I say to you who do any job of any kind, give yourself a break. It doesn’t have to be a big break. It doesn’t need to be expensive, and it doesn’t need to involve bringing in a S.W.A.T. team to talk you down. All you need to do is find that one thing that will give you a bit of respite so that you may continue on. For me, that is spending a day with my family like I did today.


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