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Boomerang willpower?

5 years ago
From a recent New Scientist article (summarised and paraphrased)

According to recent research, simple attitude hacks can turn mental effort into an energy reward.

Psychologists used to have a convincing explanation for why long days of effort at work, long study sessions, hard training sessions and the like leave us weak in the face of temptation. Willpower is a limited resource that, like the cash you work so hard for, will eventually run out. Use it all up during the day and there'll be none left by dinner time.

According to a series of newer findings, our levels of self-control are not so much a budget we have to eke out, but a renewable resource that can be powered up as we go along. “Instead of thinking of willpower as the amount of petrol in a car… think of it as the car’s battery,” says Krishna Savani at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “The more you drive, the more the battery gets charged, and the longer it will last.”

A new study by researchers in India, raises the possibility that some cultures may already be taking advantage of this idea. Krishna Savani teamed up with Veronika Job to study volunteers in this country because of the widely held belief there that mental effort isn’t draining but energising…hundreds of Indian participants in consecutive tasks actually showed a “reverse ego depletion” effect. For example, when the first task was harder, they tended to perform better on the second task. Savani concluded that ego depletion is by no means an inevitable feature of human psychology.

“We no longer have an excuse for being lazy, saying: ‘Oh, I have worked so hard, I need a break” - said one researcher.

It may well be worth the effort required to make the initial switch to this attitude. According to a recent survey of university students, those who believed that willpower is unlimited were not only happier, but suffered less from stress and bad moods when exam time approached. Diaries that the students kept suggested this was because they were able to step up their efforts to meet increasing challenges. Another survey of contributors to a stress and burnout online forum found that those who endorsed the “willpower is unlimited” idea were happier and less stressed.

In short, no matter how much you have to do, you probably have more willpower reserves than you think. Your chances of future success and happiness may depend on learning to tap into them. No pressure, then.

Here's the original article: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23531420-400-dont-quit-now-why-you-have-more-willpower-than-you-think/
(there may be a paywall, depending on where you are)

What do you think? Take a break or power through? Does willpower run out, or does it recharge if you just keep going?