Willpower or “Wantpower”?

Research shows that we have a very limited reserve of willpower. So, how can we affect change in our lives and better ourselves? The solution lies in the unlimited ability we have to do what we want – “wantpower”.

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Willpower is a single reserve tank, which you drain whenever you resist an action. For example, if you resist eating cookies to avoid the extra calories, research by the lab of Roy Baumeister showed, then you’ll give up more easily on trying to solve a puzzle. The mental strain of resisting the cookies was drawing from the same reserve as that needed to persevere with a tough puzzle. Another research showed that volunteers who had been asked to suppress their feeling while watching a movie, had less physical stamina than the control group.

Even more troubling, research shows that social interactions naturally deplete our willpower reserves, due to the need to restrain certain reactions or suppress inappropriate comments.

The term used in psychology for this reduction in willpower is called ego depletion.

The bottom line is that you better not count on willpower to reshape your life or to trail the path of self-improvement and self-realization. As you’ve probably experienced, more often than not, this leads to frustration and failure. So, are you destined to eat foods you shouldn’t, fail to exercise as much as you want, not meditate and otherwise be unable to improve yourself and your habits? No. You can change, but the change has to come from a deeper sense of purpose.

Research already shows that beliefs strengthen your ability to resist urges. The simple idea is that you’ll do what is true to you. What is true to you is what you want to do. My wife coined the term “wantpower”. You have unlimited power to do what you want.

What you want is based on your self-identity. You’ll naturally want to do that which is the expression of who you are. The trick, then, is to understand who you really are, to define your values consciously.

Understand yourself to be a rational being with a human body that needs maintenance to work well. If you see yourself like this, naturally exercise becomes something you want. You are a person who wants your body functioning well, so that your mind will function well too. If you truly experience this identity, exercise is now something you want.

The same applies to having good dietary choices. “I’m healthy”. That’s who you are. So, you eat healthily. “I’m compassionate”. So, you eat foods free of suffering. “I’m ecological”. So, you want to choose foods and products that don’t destroy the planet. “I’m spiritual”. So, you want to cultivate your self-realization, meditating every day, practicing bhakti, etc.

Be the best person you know you are. Feel that you are this person now. Absorb deeply the values of who you are. And take great pleasure in living the expression of the best of you.

Check out my video on the subject here.

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