It is now well accepted throughout the scientific world that our willpower reserves are a finite resource. Whenever our energy is low after having used up much of our willpower we are known to be in a state called ‘Ego Depletion’.
Have you ever had a day at work in which everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong? Usually by the time you arrived home you would have been highly irritable, and easily provoked. Due to a drain in willpower it is common for people to take out their stored anger on family members after a hard day at work. Each time we restrain ourselves at work from going off at our co-workers we are using willpower, each time we do something that we do not want to do we are using willpower.
When people diet they are able to stick with the diet for the first few days, more often then not they then reach a tipping point in which their willpower reserves run out. When willpower reserves run out; we give in to the temptations of junk food, we choose to watch Game of Thrones instead of studying, we often make the decisions that we did not intend to make.
Ego Depletion kills dreams because it stops us from creating the traction we need in order to reach our potential. Luckily there are a few strategies that we can implement in order to save us from having to become a casualty of Ego Depletion.
How to battle Ego Depletion
We have limited willpower, however that doesn’t mean that we have limited potential. If you can do what is most important every day, first thing in the morning before doing anything else, you can ensure that Ego Depletion doesn’t interfere with your biggest goals. Doing the few things that will generate most your results ( think 80/20) consistently every morning will make huge changes in your life.
Most people save their most important tasks for the end of the day, they postpone in the hopes to avoid pain. The pain however of doing the most important thing at the end of the day is terrible. You can not hope to do a good job when you are in a state of Ego Depletion, things that you would have seen when fresh go unseen, creativity abandons your canvas , and the overall work quality diminishes. Those hoping to make an impact in life can not set things of on this rocky foundation. Your most important task must be done with all your willpower to ensure the compounding effects of life’s actions pay you back in great dividends.
The pain of doing the most important task first thing in the morning will diminish after an average of 66 days. It has been observed that it takes on average 66 days to form a new habit, this is much longer than the common 3-4 week dogma that has been perpetuated in many self help books. Once you blast through this barrier, things become easier , things become much, much easier. Success is made through habits, our habits do not use up a lot of willpower because they are faculties of the subconscious mind. We are the results of the habits that was have installed, so we recreate ourselves through recreating our habits.
Can you build willpower?
We have already said that our willpower reserves on a day to day basis are limited, however is it possible to build up these reserves? It is possible to build the human will over time, but it takes a lot of work. Willpower is built by doing the things we have to do, but do not particularly want to do. If you are pushing yourself everyday and challenging yourself in new ways, you are building up your capacity of willpower. If you often expose yourself to difficult situations you can build up your willpower just like a muscle.
Don’t forget that if you over do it on any particular day you will enter Ego depletion. In the gym you increase weight on exercises steadily, and over time the small increases add up! the same with willpower, if you push the envelope slightly everyday over the long run the effects will be significant. So I hope this article has allowed you to see how important it is for us to make educated choices in regards to our goals. We can not blindly jump into our goals without first understanding our human limitations, or understanding how to effectively transcend these limitations.