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Here’s What You Need To Know About The Psychology Of Willpower

Mahatma Gandhi, the activist and spiritual leader from Gujarat, once described willpower after noting that ‘strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will’. Even if most people world sense intuitively what willpower means, there is a substantial lack of scientific knowledge to understand the forces that reduce its effectiveness. Though willpower is no new concept, sadly, a vast majority of our human population stands unaware of how widespread awareness is more than necessary to nurture its value. Here’s to knowing more about willpower.

What Exactly Is Willpower?

The media and the experts use several terms to explain willpower. Common synonyms include drive, self-control, self-discipline, self-regulation, determination, and more. APA or American Psychological Association defines willpower as ‘the capacity to move beyond a certain, unwanted feeling, thought or impulse’ or ‘a limited resource. Will power can deplete at any given time. It is the special ability to resist any short-term temptation or delay gratification to meet long-term goals.

The first thing that usually pops up when we speak of willpower is how much people can exert self-control to regulate their emotional, behavioral, and attention impulses to reach their targets when compared with impulsive people. No matter how much we say that temptation needs to be controlled, saying a ‘no’ is also a vital component of willpower. But then there are things when a ‘yes’ gets you closer to the goals.

Kenny McGonigal, a reputed psychologist and a lecturer at Stanford University and author of ‘The Willpower Instinct,’ has also stated how self-control is a must and how it matters in almost every sector of life. From her standpoint, willpower comprises of 3 things- ‘I won’t power, ‘I will power,’ and ‘I want power .’Surprising as it may sound, but our brains are powerful enough to harness the capacities of all these 3, and development of the abilities lies at the core of being human.

How Important Is Willpower?

As a human race, we are born with the trait of willpower. Self-control as a requirement was present for survival since the start of evolution. But strangely, few people utilize this more than others. A psychologist at Columbia University, Walter Mischel, had started studying self-control in children using a very effective test.

He tested children using marshmallows, wherein they told every child that the researchers would come back in the room after a few minutes. Only those who waited for some more time till he returned would receive two marshmallows as a reward.

Had the child not waited, the option of ringing a bell was present to signal the researcher’s return. But they would also have only one marshmallow! This Marshmallow test has been one of the most notable for helping people understand willpower requirements. Eventually, people having greater willpower exhibit health, happiness, satisfaction in relationships, wealth, and greater ability to manage stress. It also helps overcome adverse situations and deal with conflicts.

What Are The Ways To Strengthen Willpower?

Aristotle remarked that ‘knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’ After we delve into the root cause of our behaviors, we can pinpoint what behavioral changes can or cannot influence willpower. These are a few ways of improving willpower.

First, learn to meditate. The meditation process is simple, and you can start taking small but deep, calming breaths. The neurological advantages are aplenty.

Second, grow your self-awareness skills. The maximum number of choices is on ‘autopilot’ in us. And we do not have any awareness of what has led us to do so. There is no awareness even of the after-effects in our lives at times. And to bring about the necessary changes in moods and behavior, it’s self-awareness.

Third, dig into solid food. Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist, has explained the theory of willpower depletion. There are growing bodies of research that claim we have a tremendous strength of willpower, exactly like a muscle. But when overused or if you go exhausted, then it needs fuel.

In addition to knowing what else would fall under this list- don’t forget to measure the hindrances that often wreak havoc on our willpower. Once you build that awareness, you will soon be able to tap into your unending reserve of motivation!

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