Is Willpower a Limited Resource?

According to Florida State University psychologist, Roy F. Baumeister, in his book, “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” will power is indeed a limited resource. His book, co-authored by New York Times science columnist, John Tierny, suggests that humans are a slave to their desires. The society that has been shaped, borages mankind with minute-by-minute choices that impact time and weight management, health and even finances. The struggle to choose what we need over what we want can be a constant test of your willpower. This consistent battle, according Baumeister and Tierny, wears down your willpower, rendering it temporarily ineffective on a regular basis, from overuse. 

No wonder 60 percent of the population is overweight…. Wait, willpower has been around forever, so what gives?

It seems that lost willpower is more common today because marketing has taken on a whole new directive – instead of trying to convince you that you need a product or service, they play to desires you already have, knocking down your defenses by impulse. (Thank goodness for the “Buyer’s Remorse” clause on big purchases!)

In a 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal, Baumeister and Tierny go on to explain that your diet, specifically your blood sugars levels, can leave you stranded and incapable of rational, hardline choices between good and evil – at least when those levels are out of whack. The good news is, there is a solution. Apparently, if you slowly begin establishing good habits, conquering the bad one by one, you will ultimately salvage more and more of your willpower because you will rely less on this limited resource and live by force of habit.

Other experts, like Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, say their studies in the lab and through observation of real-world scenarios are that willpower is continually fueled to the brain; it is only limited by each individual’s personal resources, beliefs and experiences.

My personal take, I have to agree with Ms. Dweck. I think our society has become entirely too wrapped up in the “I want” phase and is less interested in the long-term consequences of their actions. Willpower is a choice; always available for use – we have seen too many individuals exceed expectations. If you think about how often you hear the phrases, “You only live once,” or “It is what it is,” you may come to realize that these concepts often suggest that quality and quantity of life are so finite that neither matters much anymore. We live to almost 100, these days, I don’t know about you, but I would rather spend those years healthy, upright and seeing the world, than hunched over and debilitated in a hospital bed, watching the TV and the clock on the wall until my death.


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