By Mike Bond
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where there’s a job or a project you’re determined to do? It’ll have to wait until this afternoon, because you’ll be working during the morning, but you’ve put this off long enough. You come home, have lunch and sit down for a little while. There’s absolutely nothing to stop you from doing the job now.
But still you sit there. The next thing is, you drop off to sleep. You awake with a start, and find you’ve slept for half an hour. Still plenty of time. No. Wait. What did Fred say about that programme that comes on at four o’clock? He said he was sure I’d be very interested in it. So to make a long story short, bang goes another day.
Is there a way you can increase your willpower? You try to make excuses for not knuckling down to the job, but the truth of the matter is, you just don’t have the willpower to even start the work. It’s really rather important to be able to deny yourself things or treats of some sort from time to time. Not only does it discipline the mind, but you get a darned sight more done.
But is increasing your willpower really the same as developing a muscle? Well, yes and more. Scientists at the University of Hamilton in Ontario found that indeed too much exercise of willpower can temporarily weaken it, in just the same way if you do too many bicep curls, you’ll weaken the muscle for a while. That’s why bodybuilders work out different muscles on different days.
So it would be a mistake to do something requiring willpower, and then to deny yourself a piece of that lovely pie. But have a care how you expend your willpower.
New Year is the traditional time for resolutions. Yes, you say to yourself, this year’s going to be very different. I’m giving up smoking. No more Scotch when I come home from work. Buy a membership to the local gym club. No more raiding the fridge at night. I’ll stop doing this, that and the other.
I remember when I was in the alcohol clinic for the last time, a bloke in there was in for the same thing as me. Very nice chap, but he happened to announce his plan to give up smoking in front of a couple of the nurses. They discouraged him very strongly. It would completely over load the willpower. Get yourself used to not drinking first and then start cutting down on your smoking.
This is why so many resolutions peter out. People try to do too much all at once. Now, giving up smoking is a very big step. Try that first, if you like, and see how you get on. If that works, and you’re pretty sure you’re free of the habit, then cut out the midnight snacks.
Another interesting point is that the exercise of will power uses up physical energy too. So go easy on the amount you use.