Thoughts from The Power of Self-Control:
Kirsten Weir's interview with Roy Baumeister. www.apa.org.
What drives you to better understand willpower?
The practical significance is enormous. Most of the problems that plague modern individuals in our society — addiction, overeating, crime, domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases, prejudice, debt, unwanted pregnancy, educational failure, underperformance at school and work, lack of savings, failure to exercise — have some degree of self-control failure as a central aspect.
Psychology has identified two main traits that seem to produce an immensely broad range of benefits: intelligence and self-control. Despite many decades of trying, psychology has not found much one can do to produce lasting increases in intelligence. But self-control can be strengthened. Therefore, self-control is a rare and powerful opportunity for psychology to make a palpable and highly beneficial difference in the lives of ordinary people.....
For example, we found that making decisions also seems to deplete one’s willpower. We found the same energy that is used for self-control is also used for making decisions. After making decisions, people perform worse at self-control. Conversely, after exerting self-control, decision-making shifts toward simpler and easier processes. That can lead people to make poorer decisions, or to avoid making choices at all. I was a bit surprised that decision making depleted the same resource as self-control. Intuitively it did not seem right, but on paper the hypothesis was a plausible extension. So we tested it, and have now demonstrated the effect repeatedly. Once we realized that the same resource is used for both self-regulation and decision-making, it became necessary to look for a broader framework. I think this common process is the psychological reality behind the folk notion of free will.
Can you walk us through a typical example of willpower depletion?
A dieter may easily avoid a doughnut for breakfast, but after a long day of making difficult decisions at work, he has a much harder time resisting that piece of cake for dessert. Another example might be losing your temper. Normally, you refrain from responding negatively to unpleasant things your romantic partner says. But if one day you’re especially depleted — maybe you’re trying to meet a stressful work deadline — and the person says precisely the wrong thing, you erupt and say the words you would have stifled if your self-control strength was at full capacity.
The Six Secrets Of Self-Control
by Travis Bradberry of Forbes Magazine
Christianized or comments (italics) by John Melhorn
1. Meditation: Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine (and it improves your emotional intelligence). It allows the Holy Spirit to control your mind and thought processes, so that you may think more like Jesus.
2. Eat: our brain burns heavily into your stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. Decision making takes energy, so we need to eat healthy so that we will have energy to make the right decisions.
3. Exercise: Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses.
4. Sleep: When you are tired, your brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose is highly diminished. As I explained in Secret #1, your brain’s ability to control impulses is nil without glucose. What’s worse, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels.
5. Ride the wave: When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. The rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. Pray
6. Forgive yourself: A vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common in attempts at self-control. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behavior. When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Receive God's forgiveness. Isn't it amazing how the body, soul, and spirit are linked? Who would have thought that eating affects self-control or decision making takes energy. Taking care of your body and spirit helps self-control.