Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Willpower

There is an interesting article in today (December 22, 2010) issue of Wall Street Journal by Sue Shellenbarger
titled, "How to Keep a Resolution: Forget Willpower, Reaching a Goal Means Retraining Brain to Form New Habits." Here is the (temporary) link:
http://online.wsj.com/article/work_and_family.html
Updated link:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703581204576033824100634278.html

I have discussed many of these points here before, but it is nice to see someone else telling them in a different way. I specially like the part on willpower experiments that I was totally unaware of. Here are some interesting quotes:

"Willpower springs from a part of the brain, in the prefrontal cortex, that is easily overloaded and exhausted. What works far better, researchers say, is training other parts of the brain responsible for linking positive emotions to new habits and conditioning yourself to new behaviors.

When setting a resolution, simply deciding to change your behavior may work for a while. But when the cognitive parts of the brain responsible for decision-making become stressed by other life events, that resolve is likely to succumb to an emotional desire for instant gratification.
In one study of how emotion and cognition interact in decision-making, Dr. Shiv asked some subjects to complete a challenging mental task, memorizing a seven-digit number, while others were asked to remember only two digits. When the same subjects were later given a choice between eating a delicious piece of chocolate cake or a healthy fruit salad, Dr. Shiv says, those who had memorized seven digits were more likely to choose the cake, suggesting that the mental exertion affected their ability to repress the desire for instant gratification and make a healthy choice.

It may be possible to strengthen your self control before starting your resolution by exercising it on small tasks, says Mark Muraven, an associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany. In a study, college students who practiced self control for two weeks by consciously improving their posture or keeping a food diary, performed better afterward on tests of will, such as squeezing a hand grip for an extended time, he says.
Any technique that requires you to suppress a normal impulse should work, such as cutting back on swearing or using your non-dominant hand for routine tasks. "By doing small things that take a certain amount of self-control, you can build up your 'muscle'" for tackling larger changes, Dr. Muraven says.

Planning ahead to reduce other stress in your life will increase chances of success."

6 comments:

  1. thanks for sharing. This will be useful for me.

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  2. How interesting! Just for variety, sometimes, I use my non-prominent hand for routine tasks!
    Anyway, thanks for sharing such a brilliant text.

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  3. You are welcome daisy jaan!

    If I may suggest, do not wait for a tomorrow, just pick "one" simple task (washing dishes? that has worked well for me) and do them with grace and whole heart ... nothing will happen, of course, except that you have already started your journey on the "way" :)

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  4. dear MAN, you are more than welcome!

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  5. I really liked this article that I shared it with my firends on facebook. Thanks and Happy Holidays!!!

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  6. Be happy and well, and happy holidays to you too, dear daisy!

    BTW, I am also going to office and work even though no one, neither students nor professors, is around :)

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