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    • As a competitive athlete and a daily procrastinator I always wonder how to improve my willpower. Can you imagine an unlimited source of willpower and all of the things you can accomplish in a day? How about a year or a decade? 🤔

      I've read a while ago the Willpower book by Roy F. Baumeister and I was completely sold. The two points from the book really stuck with me:

      1. You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.
      2. You use the same stock of willpower for all manner of tasks.

      Finally I can rationalize my lack of willpower to wash dishes after a long day at work! Such a minor task seems like a true test of grit, yet if left until the next morning it becomes an easy chore.

      Then I came across this article stating that your willpower is limited if you think it is...

      In a study conducted by the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dweck concluded that signs of ego depletion were observed only in test subjects who believed willpower was a limited resource. Those participants who did not see willpower as finite did not show signs of ego depletion.

      Now what?

    • Possibly related... in Alaska I talked to an Air Force Pararescue NCO. These folks are the bravest of the brave, rescuing people from life-threatening situations at the risk of their own lives. For example, pulling people out of a stormy Bering Sea or off of impossible-to-reach mountains.

      How is that relevant to this thread? The guy described how people who were very badly hurt would hang on and hang on, waiting to be rescued. You'd think that once they were safely tucked away inside a nice, warm rescue aircraft they'd start to improve. Instead, a lot of them died shortly after being pulled to safety. The way he talked about it, it was a psychological phenomenon. They used enormous willpower to stay alive. They relaxed that willpower once they were physically safe. But as it turns out, it was the only thing keeping their body going.

      I thought it was fascinating.

    • BTW, my reaction to your post is that willpower in and of itself isn't finite. But it is dependent. It's dependent on things like energy, morale and motivation. Given sufficient energy, sufficient belief and sufficient motivation, my personal guess is that willpower could be applied indefinitely. Energy strikes me as being a huge variable. Willpower is exhausting!

      Just how it struck me, anyway.

    • This is a truly fascinating story! I've read and heard of many survival stories and feats of incredible persevearance and strenght in dire circumstances. Afterall a lot of movies had been been made to honor such events.

    • It is interesting to note that "Willpower" is defined as "control of one's impulses and actions; self-control." However, I often see it as ability to focus on accomplishing a specific task in adverse circumstances (whether true or made up in your mind).

      As an example, in competitive racing it is often your willpower that keeps your in the race. So your ability to focus and tune out all of the negative thoughts and external circumstances often determines the winner. At the most elite level of competition it is often said that "the person who'll win is the one who wants it the most".

    • I haven’t read Willpower but I have read most of what Carol Dweck has written and I’ve heard her speak. I have immense respect for her.

      I have always believed willpower can be improved just like endurance, strength, intelligence and understanding can.

      Mindset is the #1 thing (Carol Dweck’s book). The power of habit is huge. Doing what you love. Having a lot at stake.

    • I think a big part of this is also decision fatigue. If every day is a struggle to make the decision to do the right thing all day long, it can be incredibly exhausting.

      I think we do have a certain number of mental matches we can burn over a period of time, but if we can turn even small decisions into habits it makes things much easier. Remembering to do things takes less willpower if you simply have a checklist that you always do, or set reminders.

      For example, I see a lot of people struggling to consistently exercise, or even remembering to do it. But if you just make it a daily routine and a fact of life, it doesn't take nearly the same mental energy to do it.

    • Good point about decision fatigue. When I worked at NeXT, Steve Jobs was fussy about his clothes, like he was with everything. I remember signing for his annual delivery of 365 custom tailored shirts, shipped from a tailor he liked in Italy, one for each day of the year.

      Later it became one of his life’s philosophies to simplify and only fuss over the things he decided should be his top few things.

    • Vilen, you might want to listen to Terry Gross’s new interview of Michael Pollan. He says the brain tells stories to itself that can be very destructive, like “You’ve had a hard day. Therefore you deserve...”

      We need a way to change our minds about the stories they tell us.

    • Oh yes, I very much believe that state of mind is well within one's control except in extreme circumstances. It really is all about how you choose to view things. It takes discipline and habit and belief to get into a healthy frame of mind for dealing with adversity. That's how I see it, at any rate.

    • There is the argument that limits of willpower are in our brain, e.g. we can learn to push past the thought of being exhausted, physically or mentally. There were research on this on physical fatigue and endurance athletes and the argument goes that the same goes for the mind. Web-based Kindle reader does not allow copy/pasting so here is a screenshot :D

      From The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

    • Fascinating, Mark. Once upon a time I read Noakes' book because I was getting ready to run the Comrades Marathon (56 miles, not some 26 mile version like we have in the U.S.) and he had written The Lore of Running, a most respected book wherein he talked about training for Comrades.

      He said in the book that if you push past a certain point, the point of collapse, your mind becomes a governor and won't let you get to that point next time. The moral of the story was, get off the course before you go too far.