Fight Temptation with Strong Willpower Muscles

In a study, hungry students who had to resist the temptation of eating chocolate chip cookies didn’t score as well on focus and self-control tests as students who didn’t have to resist the chocolate chip cookie temptation prior to taking the test. In the NPR article, “Resistance Training for your ‘Willpower’ Muscles,” author of the new book Willpower, John Tierney, explains each of us only has a set amount of willpower for they day, so we should do our best to conserve it for moments that really matter.

If you aren’t smart about distributing your willpower over the day, you could face what researchers call “ego depletion.” For those who are keeping tabs on their ego depletion, decision-making and willpower require the same mental energy. Consider how many decisions you make a day. Wear this or that, eat this or that, drive or walk, sleep in or exercise, and on and on. According to Tierney, you can identify when you might be fatiguing your system when you do something that makes you feel “a little bit more intensely because your brain has lost some ability to regulate emotions, and so you therefore respond more strongly to everything.”

Those who exercise their willpower are building their willpower “muscles.” It might not feel like much to begin with, but if you make a habit out of practicing willpower, you might find self-control gets easier on those late night trips to the kitchen, the unplanned trip to the mall, or the scheduled study sessions leading up to a big test.

How do you exercise your willpower?


“Resistance Training for you ‘Willpower’ Muscles.” 18 September 2011. NPR. 19 September 2011. <>

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