What is willpower?
I saw a video on Instagram. It showed two kids maybe 2-3 years old. Dad and mom handed the kids some candy and then said they would be right back…don’t eat anything until we come back.
The kids looked down at their stash of candy, looked up at dad, and with grim faces, they nodded approval of the rules. They would not eat the candy.
Dad backs out of the camera view and we hear Mom say again, don’t eat the candy….and we hear a door shut.
The boys are alone. The younger one looks over at his brother and starts to smile. They look knowingly at each other and the grim faces are replaced by grins.
They wordlessly nod at each other and then …. slowly….they reach for the candy. One bite, two bites….third bite and a cute little victory dance!
Did the kids lack willpower? What is willpower.
Until now, they have only measured willpower using surveys….asking people questions….not by watching what they do or why they do it.
Turns out, willpower is a fiction. An invention.
It is nearly impossible to stop your brain from doing something it wants to do. The chemical rewards outweigh our feeble attempts to do other things.
If you really do want to change habits, It is not willpower you need, but a new desire.
In other words, find a bigger want and that makes it easy to avoid the “bad” thing you are hoping to avoid.
The new research finds that the people who are able to avoid that after dinner ice cream snack are not “avoiding” the snack. They don’t really want it in the first place. It is not something that they want, so it is child’s play to avoid having it.
For success, avoid trying to use willpower. Instead, seek the thing that you want. And follow that lead daily!