Fundamentally, we give up on tasks that don’t engage us, not because our willpower becomes depleted.
Have We Been Thinking About Willpower the Wrong Way for 30 Years?
by Nir Eyal (@nireyal)
Tips & Tricks:
What we currently believe:
- The (old) theory is that willpower is connected to a limited reserve of mental energy, and once we run out of that energy, we’re more likely to lose self-control. This is the ego depletion hypothesis.
Why you shouldn’t subscribe to the ego depletion hypothesis:
- Because it gives you an easy reason to quit or slack off when you feel you don’t want to work.
- Belief drives our behavior. If you believe your will power can be depleted, it is more likely to happen.
What you should think about instead.
- Willpower is like an emotion. It has highs and lows, depending on our environment and mood.
- Lack of willpower might just be a temporary state. Ride it out so that you can finish that difficult task. Don’t quit just because you feel like it.
- Listen to your willpower. If your mental energy is waning and you’re getting out of focus too often, that’s the time to take a break.
By considering our willpower as an emotion rather than a resource that becomes depleted – as a helpful decision-making assistant working in concert with our logical capabilities – we can find new paths.
Maybe willpower isn’t what’s keeping you from getting things done. Here’s the real reason why you’re not finishing your to-do list.