A critical role that the brain plays is the sending and receiving of messages throughout the brain and the body. Such messages and signals interpret information, house memories, are involved in feelings, emotions, and desires all while reminding the heart to beat and lungs to expand.
You rely on willpower to exercise, diet, save money, quit bad habits, overcome procrastination and ultimately accomplish all of your goals. It impacts every decision you make.
You probably have a general sense of what willpower is, but what you probably don’t know yet is the scientific knowledge that can help understand what depletes it.
Instead of assuming that willpower is limitless, or that you must posses and muster up an unlimited supply in order to succeed at your life goals, what if you learned how you can work with it and replenish your willpower supply instead of exhaust it?
Probably the most obvious example regarding willpower efforts or the lack there of is best expressed in diet and weight loss.
How is it that every January millions of Americans take the jump and psych themselves up to get the weight off once and for all, only to find themselves back to square one and feeling defeated when the willpower just simply isn’t enough
Not only did their waist line not get any smaller but the heavy burden of the feeling of failure once again is added to the scale.
Your willpower is a very real thing, a simple brain function not only helping you to resist temptations, but it also governs other things, like your ability to focus. It monitors your task performance, regulates your emotions, and helps you make choices.
That is a great many functions in any given day. It should be no surprise that you wake up in the morning ready to slay your dragons and stick to your goals, only to find yourself exhausted by the end of the day, finding it difficult to draw any substance from your empty bucket of willpower.
For instance, after an intense day, you might feel like you couldn’t make another decision and you are more apt to cutting yourself a little extra slack in your meal plan.
Willpower was intended in the beginning of time to motivate the human race to be persistent in survival. To keep human beings following through with the monotonous duties necessary for the species to maintain its existence.
As progress has arrived bringing with it ever increasing technological advances and with smartphones providing access to computers in the palms of our hands, your willpower and decision making part of the brain is constantly inundated resulting in depletion of its natural resources.
What does this mean? Basically, your willpower bucket is depleted very rapidly often before the demands of the day are completed. This is why by the end of the day even trying to decide what to do for dinner can be a brain buster, forget about that evening workout or extra patience with the family.
Scientists call this “decision fatigue”, it is a real thing and is directly associated to willpower.
Roy Baumeister is a professor of psychology at Florida State, and arguable one of the world’s leading experts on willpower, or ego depletion, as he calls it.
In summary, his research concluded, that willpower in resistant form in one area of life depletes the energies and resources to utilize resource or discipline in another area; and vice versa. Basically saying, regulations, limitations, and discipline used in other areas depletes willpower.
This goes against what you and most people might have believed about willpower.
Now if you add to this equation a fatigued brain due to a concussion or TBI, willpower and discipline can be even harder to come by.
It is a common misconception, that willpower is something that can be endlessly tapped into and should be of limitless supply; furthermore, if you don’t have a limitless supply, you are weak, or a failure.
Simply put; many people believe this about others or even themselves, you don’t have the willpower or what it takes and that is why you are …(fill in the blank)…….!
Does that lie, based on misconception, sound like something you have told yourself before?
How many times have you woken up with the best intentions, but after a long day you fall prey to bad habits, because, you are simply exhausted?
Maybe you are the one that finds themselves doing great on your health plan, then you enter the break-room at work after finishing a report and the donuts seem simply irresistible.
Whatever your situation, whether it is children, colleagues, work load, or just life demands; no brain has a limitless supply of willpower, discipline, and regulatory decision making; NO ONE!
The key is to find ways of constantly refueling that supply and relieve some demands of depletion through regrouping, re-evaluating priorities and planning.
There are things you can do that will restore your willpower and ease the mania that can drive addiction and self-limiting habits.
Things like prayer, meditation, social connection, sleep, gratitude, and healing stabilizing foods.
Make sure to schedule some 10 minute “willpower re-fuelings” throughout the day. You might find yourself needing a few more in the beginning of a new program, on certain days, or in different seasons of your life, especially if you are recuperating from a head injury or PTSD.
Learn to listen to your body, it’s the only one you’ve got. Take your time in this journey and be kind to yourself!