Anyone looking to live a happier, healthier, and more successful life Anyone interested in behavioral psychology, especially the science of self-control Anyone struggling with cravings, addiction, procrastination, or lack of self-discipline 1. People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are better off almost any way you look at it. They are happier and healthier. Their relationships are more satisfying and last longer. They make more money and go further in their careers. They are better able to manage stress, deal with conflict, and overcome adversity.
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Anyone looking to live a happier, healthier, and more successful life Anyone interested in behavioral psychology, especially the science of self-control Anyone struggling with cravings, addiction, procrastination, or lack of self-discipline 1.
People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are better off almost any way you look at it. They are happier and healthier. Their relationships are more satisfying and last longer. They make more money and go further in their careers.
They are better able to manage stress, deal with conflict, and overcome adversity. They even live longer. When pit against other virtues, willpower comes out on top. Self-control is a better predictor of academic success than intelligence take that, SATs , a stronger determinant of effective leadership than charisma sorry, Tony Robbins , and more important for marital bliss than empathy yes, the secret to lasting marriage may be learning how to keep your mouth shut.
If we want to improve our lives, willpower is not a bad place to start. Roy Baumeister, author of Willpower and one of the leading researchers in this field, says that there are two scientifically validated predictors of success in life: IQ and willpower.
While the former is mostly fixed, the latter is very much subject to change. He also mentions that most major problems in life — reckless spending, alcohol abuse, drug addictions, procrastination, lack of exercise, crappy diet, anger issues, and general underachievement in life — center on a lack of self-control. If you want to improve your life, willpower is where to start.
You simply live out your conditioning. So, how do you become more self-aware? First, tracking. I personally try to keep track of at least one thing at all times.
Sometimes, my time. Sometimes, my choices. Sometimes, the number of steps I take. Second, meditation. Speaking of meditation… 3. Sometimes we identify with the person who wants to lose weight, and sometimes we identify with the person who just wants the cookie. This is what defines a willpower challenge: Part of you wants one thing, and another part of you wants something else. While the monkey seeks immediate gratification, the rational you seeks long-term success.
The monkey wants to watch TV, but you want to study for your upcoming exams. Strengthening the rational you the pre-frontal cortex and seat of your willpower while weakening the monkey the limbic system and seat of your impulses and desires is the long-term solution for all of our self-control issues, including procrastination.
Researchers are beginning to understand what that state looks like, and why the complexity of our modern world often interferes with it. The good news is that you can learn to shift your physiology into that state when you need your willpower the most. Change your physiology and your psychology will follow.
Change your psychology and your physiology will follow. For example, feeling anxious body leads to having anxious thoughts mind. Having anxious thoughts mind leads to experiencing anxious feelings and accompanying bodily symptoms such as speeding up of heart rate, palms sweating, and so on.
Willpower works the same way. So, what does the state look like? That calm state allows you to pause and plan. It allows you to behave more rationally, more thought-through, and in a more controlled manner. Anything that puts you into that state will boost willpower.
Anything that takes you out of it will reduce willpower. So, what puts you in or out of that state? Stress, negative emotions, lack of sleep, low energy, or too much stimulation kicks you out. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, high energy, and a general slowing-down will put you into it. So often we believe that stress is the only way to get things done, and we even look for ways to increase stress — such as waiting until the last minute, or criticizing ourselves for being lazy or out of control — to motivate ourselves.
Or we use stress to try to motivate others, turning up the heat at work or coming down hard at home. This may seem to work in the short term, but in the long term, nothing drains willpower faster than stress. The biology of stress and the biology of self-control are simply incompatible. The fight-or-flight response floods the body with energy to act instinctively, and steals it from the areas of the brain needed for wise decision making. The pause-and-plan response sends that energy to the brain — and not just anywhere in the brain, but specifically to the self-control center, the prefrontal cortex.
Stress encourages you to focus on immediate, short-term goals and outcomes, but self-control requires keeping the big picture in mind. Learning how to better manage your stress is one of the most important things you can do to improve your willpower. Stressors are all around us, whether we are aware of it or not. Our brains get stressed out by television news, noise pollution, light pollution, EMFs, social media, emails, and so much more.
Even things like clutter, multitasking, or self-criticism are enough to stress out our brains. And stress management is a great way to start. Instead, we turn to things that promise to make us feel better, but ultimately, make us feel even worse: eating, drinking, shopping, watching television, surfing the Web, and playing video games.
So, which strategies do? According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.
“The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal (Book Summary)
Learn the behind-the-scenes story of the cover design and read an excerpt from the introduction here. Or listen to the audiobook introduction here! Through her trademark blend of science and storytelling, McGonigal draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology, as well as memoirs, ethnographies, and philosophers. She shows how movement is intertwined with some of the most basic human joys, including self-expression, social connection, and mastery--and why it is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Along the way, McGonigal paints a portrait of human nature that highlights our capacity for hope, cooperation, and self-transcendence. The result is a revolutionary narrative that goes beyond familiar arguments in favor of exercise, to illustrate why movement is integral to both our happiness and our humanity.