The Truth About Feeling Drained and Out of Willpower
Well, first off I want to say thank-you for taking some of that willpower and chugging through this article and second off I want to say that what I just said is bullshit.
You and I are power players.
We are wrecking balls to the masses, and we will move anything that is on the way to our ultimate path.
So why all of the sudden do we feel as though our willpower is drained and that we can’t push anymore.
Well, let’s dive into this little topic and clear the air on the truth about willpower.
Your mind is your master
That is the truth.
Your mind controls everything in your reality, and the more and more science discovers the more this prophecy holds true.
In fact, the age-old “I only have so much willpower” was blown out of proportion and as wrong as everyone’s fascination with the Tamagotchi back in the day.
Willpower is limited only by your mind and you “needing that cookie” may be just a clever trick that your brain has created to get a bit more glucose and you to “stick to your goals.”
Maybe your brain is hungry for more?
In my research on willpower, I wanted to figure out why someone would need a sugary beverage after a hard task, or to have that cookie in front of them to stick to their diet.
And one answer popped out to me.
“When your willpower is tested your brain may function differently… willpower was depleted by self-control tasks showed decreased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex” — APA.org
This is stunning evidence for a limited amount of willpower that one can have.
The brain gets moody when being split between so many decisions, and wanting to choose what it shouldn’t that it actively changes its functioning and slows down activity in the anterior cingulate cortex which regulates blood pressure, heart rate, and RATIONAL COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS (like reward and decision making)
So it only makes sense that as the activity decreases because of the stressor of choice that the body responds by making the easiest decision.
Eating that cookie, or having that sugary beverage to keep on going on some other task.
But even further, doing these tasks leads to usage in glucose of the brain.
So your brain’s sugar levels are down, and now it wants to be replenished through you eating more and more sugar to “build back your willpower.”
If you are still with me here’s the discovery.
Your brain likes to make quick and simple decisions as it leads to no fatigue.
But when surrounded by things it knows it shouldn’t but wants to do it has trouble, you end up stressing and worrying and using the glucose fuels in your brain leading to decreased activity of the part that controls decision-making and reward.
So then you reach, grab some sugar, and keep doing whatever you originally intended to do.
I don’t believe this is the actual way willpower works.
When I look at people like Gary Vaynerchuk, a movie star getting into shape for a role, or someone who is diligent about their diet, it doesn’t seem like willpower is used up at any time of the day.
Actually, it would seem as though they have “more” willpower than you and me.
But what does that mean?
Do they have more glucose availability in the brain? Do they have busier and more strengthened connections in the anterior cingulate gyrus?
I think not.
In fact, I think that they have mastered their mind, confidence, and mood when it comes to willpower “using” activities.
You Can Master Your Mind (and Willpower)
On the flip side of everything you read above comes a couple of other studies that show willpower not as being limited or fixed.
In fact, the only way that it is limited or fixed is solely based on your reasoning and ability to think that your willpower is limited or unlimited, fixed or infinite.
In one of the studies, a group was asked to do a specific task and then after they gauged their fatigue.
The one’s who were more tired were offered a sugary beverage (most accepted) and then kept on going like they hadn’t done the task before.
But the interesting part is that before doing said task they were asked a simple question “Is willpower finite or infinite”
The people who said it was finite felt tired and took the sugary beverage to continue after completing the first task while the group that said it was infinite trucked on, as usual, outperforming their counter part. — Link to study
For you and me, this is completely relevant as I want to make sure that everything I do doesn’t seem draining.
This could be work, working out, eating a certain way, going out with friends, etc..
And the truth is that sometimes these tasks do seem to drain me.
But my old perception of a fixed amount of willpower was definitely a culprit of the cause.
See me and you are strong, we are determined, and we can do anything we want.
So we should have the energy to perform the tasks that are truly meaningful to what we are trying to accomplish.
Let’s reframe our mindset on “difficult” but crucial tasks in our path to an amazing life.
Strengthen Not Drain: Build Not Wear Down
What I mean is that framing the way we see these “draining” tasks as strengthening is exactly how you get infinite amounts of willpower.
If everytime you pass up some cake, go to the gym, have fun and be social in social situations, seems to be a strengthening activity then you take the wear and tear out of it.
So re-frame what is typical and think about rewarding yourself (with a pat on the back and not that chocolate cake) each time that you complete a difficult tasks.
You will feel better stronger and in control of your reality by slowly building up this muscle.
No more “my willpower is drained” but more “my willpower is so damn strong.”
Use your brain, your actions, and your micro-accomplishments as the fuel that gets you from point A to B.
And if you want some awesome help with productivity and being endlessly filled with the energy you need for any task click here to download a 3-minute guide to effortless productivity (and the natural Adderall alternative I use everyday.)
If you’ve got the time, I would love it if you left a comment too.