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How Ego Depletion Can Sabotage Your Willpower

Self Control

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.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

How Ego Depletion Can Sabotage Your Willpower

How Ego Depletion Can Sabotage Your Willpower

https://www.verywellmind.com/ego-depletion-4175496

verywellmind.com

8

Key Ideas

Ego Depletion

Ego depletion happens when people use up their available willpower on one task.

We all have natural urges, desires, and tendencies that demand attention. When we curb those urges, it requires willpower. Even small decisions to delay gratification require huge mental, emotional, and cognitive effort. As willpower is a limited resource, when it is used up, we experience mental exhaustion and fatigue.

Self Control

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.

Causes of Ego Depletion

Many emotional and physical factors contribute to ego depletion, like:

  • Emotional distress
  • Struggling to learn something new
  • Mental fatigue due to anxiety
  • Low levels of blood sugar
  • Too much choice
  • Conflicting beliefs and actions (cognitive dissonance)
  • Heart Rate
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Being young and immature.

Dieting and social behaviors

  • Chronic dieters seem to be more prone to ego depletion as they apply their limited willpower on controlling their food intake, therefore being more likely to lose their self-control when temptation strikes.
  • Ego depletion makes people feel less guilty, making them less likely to be empathetic or helpful towards others.

Decision Making

The huge amount of choices that a consumer makes while shopping can lead to ego depletion, as they become mentally exhausted and overwhelmed.

This leads to the consumer picking something without much thought, like just the lower-priced one, or a familiar brand.

Mental Performance

.. requires mental toughness and determination. When willpower is exhausted due to challenging mental tasks, it leads to physical exhaustion.

Example: Students having a tough exam before a game might perform poorly in the activity.

Addictions

Depletion of self-control can make people impulsively consume addictive drugs like alcohol or tobacco.

If all the willpower is exhausted in other tasks, the person is more likely to give in to the temptation.

Prevention of Ego Depletion

  • Take steps to boost your mood.
  • Change your outlook and focus on the big picture.
  • Use positive self-affirmation to counter the effects of ego depletion.
  • Make sure you get proper sleep.
  • Practice deep breathing and mindfulness meditation.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Self-Control

 ... is the ability to regulate and alter responses in order to avoid undesirable behaviors, increase desirable ones, and achieve long-term goals.

Research on Self-Control
  • A 2011 survey found that 27 % of respondents identified a lack of willpower as the primary factor keeping them from reaching their goals. 
  • One study found that students who exhibited greater self-discipline had better grades, higher test scores, and were more likely to be admitted to a competitive academic program. 
  • The study also found that when it came to academic success, self-control was a more important factor than IQ scores.
  • A health study found that people who were rated as having high levels of self-control during childhood continued to have high levels of physical and mental health in adulthood.
  • Research has found that self-control is a limited resource. In the long-term, exercising self-control tends to strengthen it. 
Motivation and Monitoring

A lack of willpower is not the only factor that affects goal attainment.

  • There needs to be a clear goal and the motivation to change. Having an unclear or overly general goal and insufficient motivation can lead to failure.
  • You need to monitor your actions daily towards the achievement of the goal.
  • You need to have willpower.

one more idea

Ego depletion

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 a...

A self-defeating state of mind

Having a self-defeating state of mind makes one believe that he or she is not able to achieve certain goals, by providing a logical reason to give up.

Willpower as emotion

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.

Sticking to a healthy lifestyle

Staying in shape is mostly about program compliance.

It’s not about having the best fitness program, but about having one that’s good enough, eating less junk food and making sure you...

Off limits foods

Successful dieters usually declare certain foods to be completely out of bounds, or allowed only during occasional designated cheat meals, rather than expecting themselves to eat everything in moderation.

Saying no to bad habits
It might seem like a simple matter of self-control. But it turns out that people with high self-control may not necessarily be better at resisting temptation. They might just experience it less often in the first place.

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Copying successful people

Putting highly successful people on a pedestal can unknowingly hinder our own efforts. We get caught in comparisons and it’s easy to forget that they’ve had and still have their own set of struggle...

Maximize every moment

Working well is not about maximizing every waking moment of the day, in order to get more done. And the focus on maximizing time may actually diminish our creativity.

Instead, try identifying and focusing on the few hours of the day you are most productive.

Setting Big Goals

To achieve sustainable productivity habits, it’s best to build up with easily achievable tasks.

Small chunks of accomplishment will amount to something big eventually.

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Avoid willpower depletion

Building willpower is similar to building muscle. Continually exercising without giving yourself a break is not the best way to increase your strength or performance. 

...
Use your imagination
Imagination can blunt the cravings that erode your self-control.

If you imagine lying on a peaceful beach, your body will respond by relaxing. If you imagine being late for an important meeting, your body will tense in response. Use this to your advantage in building willpower.

Think about something else
You can even use your imagination to keep unwanted thoughts away. 

Every time that unwanted thought occupies your mind, consciously think about something pleasant instead. 

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Productivity guilt
Productivity guilt

Productivity guilt happens when you feel overwhelmed by not attending to all the things you know you "should" be doing and having a nagging feeling that you're wasting time.

Hidden contradictions of life advice

In practice, adding too many suggestions for living well will create a conflict with each other. 

Suggestions are almost always given on their own, without including a wider context. You can read about why exercise, reading or meditating are good on their own, but rarely find information about how they trade-off against each other.

Being too tired

There are two different types of feeling tired.

  1. The feeling you have as you're about to start an activity. Once you actually do it, your mood changes and you find you're glad you did it.
  2. The second kind persists throughout the activity itself. You find you struggle with pushing through more than five minutes of it. If you feel like this for weeks at a time, your habits are probably unsustainable.

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Brute willpower doesn't work

So we should stop worshiping self-control and start thinking about diluting the power of temptation. Because resisting temptation either only has short-term gains or can be an outright failu...

Willpower is not the lucky ticket to success

Studies have shown that people that are really good at achieving their goals are not the ones that put more effort into exerting self-control in the face of temptations, but the ones that experience fewer temptations to start with.

People who are good at self-control
  • They actually enjoy the activities some of us resist (eating healthy, studying, exercising)
  • They have better decision-making habits
  • Some people just experience fewer temptations
  • It’s easier to have self-control when you’re wealthy - when you’re poor, the future is less certain.

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The Relationship Between Goals And Burning Out
The Relationship Between Goals And Burning Out

Effective goal-setting underlies the fundamental aspect of your motivation and keeps stressful situations at bay.

If you don’t set goals in positive, attainable ways, you may fall i...

Reorganizing Your Goal Hierarchy

As losing resources is more likely to cause burnout than gaining resources is to mitigate it, dealing with the negative aspects is more beneficial than using positive “band-aid” fixes. You want to drive down uncertainty and inefficiency to ensure that you aren’t doing unnecessary tasks and minimize your emotional exhaustion. To do that:

  1. Create a chart and place your major goal at its top, followed by layers of very specific subgoals needed to attain the major goal.
  2. Find and fix the inefficiencies in your goal hierarchy.
  3. Determine the attainability of each goal.
Burnout Symptoms And Signs Of Exhaustion
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired concentration/ forgetfulness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Increased illness
  • Physical symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal pain
  • Depression
  • Interpersonal problems.

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Self-control
Self-control

It’s your ability to resolve conflicts between your short-term desires and your long-term goals.

For example, successful self-control means sacrificing immediate pleasure (cookies a...

Why self-control matters

People who have high self-control aren’t missing out on enjoyment. Not being able to resist temptation and enjoying life are not the same things.

They tend to eat in a healthily way, exercise more, sleep better, drink less alcohol, smoke fewer cigarettes, achieve higher grades at university, have more peaceful relationships, and are more financially secure.

Biological limits to self-control

Research showed that self-control is ultimately limited by our biology. We can’t exercise effortful self-control indefinitely – the brain has to do regular maintenance to remain functional.

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