Wednesday, April 02, 2008

exercise willpower, but only toward one goal at a time

Interesting, but largely nonsensical, article on willpower, advising us to be careful when expending our willpower resources:
The brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others...The brain’s store of willpower is depleted when people control their thoughts, feelings or impulses, or when they modify their behavior in pursuit of goals...It can be counterproductive to work toward multiple goals at the same time if your willpower cannot cover all the efforts that are required. Concentrating your effort on one or at most a few goals at a time increases the odds of success.
However, also advising us to make sure to use willpower often, since:
Like a muscle, willpower seems to become stronger with use. Whatever the explanation, consistently doing any activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower — and the ability to resist impulses and delay gratification is highly associated with success in life.
And some fluff:
People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also study more, watch less television and do more housework. Other forms of willpower training, like money-management classes, work as well.