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Willpower is the ability to resist or delay short-term desires to achieve long-term goals. Other names for willpower are self-discipline, self-control, self-regulation, determination, drive. Willpower consists of three things:
When the PFC gets damaged, it can alter your personality and interfere with your willpower. One recorded case of damage to the PFC was in 1848, when an iron went straight into the skull of Phineas Gage, blowing away his PFC. He survived, but had a complete personality change, became irreverent, indulging at times, impatient of restraint or advice.
States that inhibit our PFC are being drunk, sleep-deprived, or just distracted. It can lead us to focus on our impulses, rather than our long-term goals.
A willpower challenge is a conflict between these two systems, where one eventually will triumph.
Once we understand the root cause of our behaviors, it is easier to work towards our goals. One way is to improve our self-awareness. How many food choices do you make a day? While most people would guess around 14, studies reveal the average number is 227.
Self-awareness is the ability to recognise what we are doing as we're doing it. One way to increase your self-awareness is to keep track of all your choices on a given day, then analyse which ones supported your long-term goals and which ones didn't.
Meditation can train your brain for better self-control. Meditation increases your attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness.
When we practice a certain behavior, we strengthen the neural connections for that behavior, making it more accessible and likely to occur. Practice worrying, and you get better at worrying. Practice concentration, and you'll get better at concentration.
One study found that participants who focused on consistent exercise for two months ate less junk food and more healthy foods; they watched less television; they studied more; they saved more money; they procrastinated less.
Instead of considering how much exercise you need for results, focus on how much you're likely to do. Start with realistic goals.
Our brain's normal functions, such as thinking, learning, and memory, relies on glucose. Exerting our willpower uses a considerable amount of this fuel, leaving our brains in a state of alert trying to attain normal blood sugar levels. The drop in blood sugar will generally leave us more and prone to reach for sugary foods. But high fructose corn syrup can increase levels of stress hormones in the brain.
To prevent this, eating whole foods regularly and avoiding refined sugars will keep your glucose levels stable and equip you with increased willpower.
When you're stressed, the sympathetic nervous system takes over - also referred to as the "fight or flight system." It enables your body to respond quickly to perceived threats or stress. When this happens, your heart rate goes up and stays high, leading to feelings of anxiety and anger.
People with high levels of stress are more prone to poor self-control and focus. Stress will also shift your brain to a reward-seeking state: Whatever will make you happy at the moment will become a fixation. That is why people who are stressed are more likely to smoke, gamble, play video games, surf the internet or watch TV. The most effective stress-relief strategies include exercising, reading, listening to music, and spending time with loved ones.
Two other major hindrances to self-control are:
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... is the ability to regulate and alter responses in order to avoid undesirable behaviors, increase desirable ones, and achieve long-term goals.
A lack of willpower is not the only factor that affects goal attainment.
Self-control is basically restraining yourself from doing something that may feel good in the short run, but may not be in your best interests in the long run. This includes not gorging on cookies ...
Self-control is a kind of mind muscle that if used continuously, tires out just like the physical counterpart.
Difficult days that rob our energy also sap us out of our willpower, make us psychologically weak and unable to resist the temptation to give up on our plan. We are more likely to skip the evening gym session if we were occupied the whole day, mentally and physically exhausted.
The willpower response is a reaction to an internal conflict. You want to do one thing, but know you shouldn’t. Or you know you should do something, but you’d rather do nothing.
The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps us with things like decision-making and regulating our behavior, needs to be looked after.
Feed your brain with good-quality food so it has enough energy to do its job and get enough sleep.
Willpower is like a muscle—it can get exhausted by overuse, but we might be able to strengthen our willpower by training it.