Been thinking on willpower.

If we assume that at any one time we have a certain amount of willpower then it maybe a good idea to not waste it on small decisions, some of which maybe to do with us.

Our willpower can be depleted by:

  • Inputs such as media, be it social or otherwise.
  • A large number of possessions.
  • Options due to large number of possessions.

The distractions of the modern age may be one of the reasons we look at productive persons of the past, such as Leonardo Da Vinci who had a prodigious and wide ranging output. Their often shorter lifespan makes their output even more impressive. They had the same quantity of time per day as we have, but less inputs.

The idea of a fixed amount of willpower maybe a difficult one to hold, but let us assume there is a amount below which we don’t want to fall, below this will leave us open to poor/sub optimal choices. To test this a study was undertaken to show how making lots of choices would affect willpower.

Willpower tested in the following way:

  • Group A – Had to make lots of choices within this study
  • Group B – Had no choices to make

The groups were then tested by seeing how long the hand could be held in ice water.

  • Group A average time was 27seconds
  • Group B average time was 67 seconds.

So that being the case reducing the amount of decisions to be made would leave us with more willpower. Be it having less stuff/clothes/choices/errands to run (which have inbuilt choices). Albert Einstein and come to think of it Steve Jobs had simple wardrobes, one less choice to make in the morning. Think of ways to simplify ones repeated tasks along the lines of a direct debit/standing order as you would with bills or savings. This automation of saving permits you to spend what is left only.

Now if we mitigate the amount of choices to be made and take it as a given, can we increase the capacity or is it always fixed?

I doubt willpower can be increased,  as I think its the case of we exist in time and how do we use this time?  Look again at the graphic at the top of this article the basic equation of what willpower could be:


We only scratch the surface of our abilities to produce work of merit by muddying the waters of our mind with too many stimuli. These stimuli masquerade as work, other than research consumption often prevents outputs/creation.

Maybe willpower cannot be increased and merely optimised by letting non essential things be automated or drop by the wayside. Maybe just maybe willpower is the amount of time in our waking day where we either create, consume or just be.

Think about what you want and are the inputs permitting the output you desire or keep it out of arms reach?

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