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The theory of 'ego depletion' refers to the idea that there is a connection between willpower and one's limited reserve of mental energy.
However, evidence has been brought to support an opposite point of view, according to which ego depletion is caused most likely by self-defeating thoughts, rather than biological limitations.
According to the psychology professor Michael Inzlicht, the individual is able to control his or her willpower, taking into account current feelings and events.
This is perceived as a decision-making tool that enables its owner to have full disposal of the mental energy and, therefore, to accomplish even the most challenging tasks.
Willpower is not a finite resource but instead acts like an emotion. And it can be managed and used as such.
When we perform a difficult task, it is more helpful to believe a lack of motivation is temporary than to tell ourselves that it is all spent. The lack of willpower could be seen as providing insights about what we should and shouldn't be spending our time on.
People having a high level of self-control experience better relationships and have higher achievement levels. Lack of self-control is associated with social conflict and low-grade academic performance.
Example: While following a diet regime, a person spends a lot of willpower the whole day trying to avoid junk food, but by the end of the day, all his mental energy has been exhausted, and there is no self-control left, resulting in snacking on unhealthy food.
A new way of thinking about effort is in terms of opportunity cost. In the paper "An Opportunity Cost Model of Subjective Effort and Task Performance", Robert Kurzban and co-authors argue that certain parts of your brain can deploy many possible functions.
However, the executive will limit the number of simultaneous tasks and apply it only to the most valuable activities. This experience of the cost-benefits will feel like effort. When your current activity doesn't feel like a good use of your limited mental bandwidth, you feel like doing something else.