Very important reply to the question, "Is willpower depletable?" by Kat Li, who has an MA in psychology and gives a well-researched answer on Quora:
"Willpower is depletable only if you believe it to be so, is the message from Stanford psychology professors Carol Dweck and Greg Walton . Though past research has shown that willpower is limited and dependent on a continuous stream of glucose, the story is more complex than that.
Dweck, known for her groundbreaking research into the world of mindsets and achievement teamed with Walton, an expert in theory-based interventions to devise a set of experiments looking into willpower . They found that beliefs about whether willpower is a limited resource affect performance on difficult tasks.
One of their studies examined beliefs that subjects held about ego depletion by asking them to rate how much they agreed with statements about it (i.e., "After a strenuous mental activity your energy is depleted and you must rest to get it refueled again.") Then, the subjects completed either easy, almost mindless tasks or a more complicated ask involving self-control. Following that, both groups completed a Stroop task, which is a standard measure of ego depletion.
They found that subjects who believed that their energy could be depleted did perform worse on the Stroop task after having completed the more cognitively taxing task. However, participants who did not believe that energy was limited performed no differently in the Stroop task, regardless of whether they had done the easy task or the challenging task.
Moreover, in another study, they had subjects read statements such as, "Sometimes, working on a strenuous mental task can make you feel energized for further challenging activities," which caused all subjects to look like the group in the first study who believed that willpower was not limited. Compared to participants who read statements about the limits of willpower, these subjects made half as many mistakes on the difficult task."
So -- stop thinking of willpower as depletable? In fact, it's just the opposite -- after you do something difficult, you have more energy. Remember that and make it a mantra. After you do something difficult, you have more energy.
Sebastian, be careful not to confuse causation with correlation!
There seems to be a correlation between beliefs and willpower, but the studies do now prove which came first (=causes what).
Obviously, if you always had a huge reservoir of willpower, you would have formed the belief that it's not limited and of course also perform well in the challenge.
What you stated at the end is a useful belief and possibly an important contributing factor, maybe even a self-fulfilling prophecy in some way, but not some "truth" that this research proves.
Maybe you are aware of that already, however from the way you wrote it one could conclude "just change your beliefs" - when in fact there are many ways to improve your willpower which should not be neglected :)
At least I know from personal experience how much difference sleep, diet, exercise and meditation make, and so do probably most of your readers.
I find its the incessant thinking "between" mentally straining work that causes massive depletion.
Its the thinking about my bank account/family's opinions/politics while preparing food or going to the washroom that really burn me out.
Fascinating. Good observation. Are you doing anything to mitigate that thinking? How's it working so far?
Drink a lot of water, visualization, aggressively cut off negative metal threads.
I'd love concrete suggestions.
Hey Chris, one thing that works amazingly for me is Eben Pagan's 50/10 time blocks.
Focus 100% on the task at hand for 50 minutes. Think of nothing but what you have devoted that time block to. Then take 10 minutes to relax and let your mind wander.
Knowing that you'll be able to address any concerns you have in less than 50 minutes lets you push them aside for the moment and just focus on what you're doing.
This is consistent with other research about "the power of suggestion," and anyone with life experience can see that one's own willpower disappears under close introspection.
The secret is to simply live a healthy and active life without thinking about it.
As Simon mentions, I'm wary of the veracity of this claim, going as it does against almost all that we've learned about cognitive process in the last couple of decades.
But I've noticed myself, for lack of a better word "hoarding" my cognitive resources and I have been finding myself stressed at the thought of "spending" them, a very miserly attitude, and not one that's very productive.
So I took your advice this morning and resolved to feel energized every time I tackled a challenge. So far the results are very encouraging.
> But I've noticed myself, for lack of a better word "hoarding" my cognitive resources and I have been finding myself stressed at the thought of "spending" them, a very miserly attitude, and not one that's very productive.
Indeed, this. It could be a very real phenomenon, yet paradoxically a harmful one to place your focus on. IE, worrying about ego depletion could well ego deplete much worse than expecting something better.
There's a lot of memes in psychology that get tossed around by the laymen like it's the ultimate truth.
I believe it's important to always try those psychology-memes on yourself, personal scientist style. Love the mantra.
In chemistry, activation energy is a term introduced in 1889 by the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius, that is defined as the energy that must be overcome in order for a chemical reaction to occur.
In this article, I propose that:
After proposing that, I'd like to explore:
Every action a person takes has an activation cost. The activation cost of a consistent, deeply embedded habit is zero. It happens almost automatically. The activation cost for most people in the United States to exercising is fairly high, and most people are inconsistent about exercising. However, there are people who - every single day - begin by putting their running shoes on and running. Their activation cost to running is effectively zero.
This site is about finding ways to improve your ability to improve yourself. Integral to this is utilising meta-habits; habits that enhance your ability to adopt other habits.
To get started, here are five meta-habits that can serve as a foundation for continuous growth.