will power

Willpower Woes? It’s Only a Matter of Time.

During this time of year when we review our habits and goals thoroughly, keep in mind that some things may be beyond your control, your self-control that is. This isn’t an excuse for being unaccountable, but rather, our brain’s reward system and perception of time could have as much to do with accomplishing our goals as our internal will and discipline.

will powerI found this interesting article in which researchers delved into the motivations of goals and self-control. Author, Maria Konnikova, helps reveal a bit more about how our brains work. Self-control is synonymous with delayed gratification and when we think of delayed gratification – not eating a treat now to be slimmer later, saving money now to pay for the honeymoon next year – we attribute our willpower in making it so.

Yet it’s actually not that simple. If the timing of the payoff is longer than expected in coming or comes at irregular intervals, we may give up too soon.  That leads one to ask: so when do you hold ‘em and when do you fold ‘em? It’s still up to you, but this article definitely brings up some interesting points on our perception of time vs. our mental willpower.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Can you forgo a brownie in service of the larger reward of losing weight, give up ready cash in favor of a later investment payoff? The immediate option is hot; you can taste it, smell it, feel it. The long-term choice is far cooler; it’s hard to picture it with quite as much color or power.

In psychological terms, the difference is typically seen as a dual-system trade-off: On one hand, you have the deliberative, reflective, cool system; on the other, the intuitive, reflexive, hot system. The less self-control you have, the further off and cooler the future becomes and the hotter the immediate present grows. Brownie? Yum.

But what if the reality is a little different? What if the ability to delay gratification is actually more like the commuter faced with a crowded train platform than like a dieter faced with a freshly baked treat? A failure of self-control, suggest the University of Pennsylvania neuroscientists Joseph W. Kable and Joseph T. McGuire, may not be a failure so much as a reasoned response to the uncertainty of time: If we’re not quite sure when the train will get there, why invest precious time in continuing to wait?

Click here to read the full article.

Don’t give up on your resolutions to be healthier in 2015 just yet.  Time is on your side.