Continuing from last week’s blog on why it’s so hard to go to the gym, we explore the topic of willpower.
As mentioned last week, the ego depletion theory has been challenged numerous times to the point now where I no longer believe it to be true. I must admit, that at one point I did believe in it. It made sense and had some studies done by psychologists that support the theory.
But like any scientific hypothesis, more studies will come out and it either survives the test of time, or it does not.
The latest research now suggests that willpower can actually be limitless!
This means your belief on willpower is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think there is only so much willpower in a day, then you will have capped your willpower. But if you believe there is no limit, then you may find yourself being more productive, more successful and more fulfilled than you ever thought possible.
But how does that help us get started on an exercise routine when you can’t even get your lazy bum out of bed in the morning when you’re willpower is at it’s fullest whether it is limited or not?
Even if you have limitless willpower, if you don’t find the strength to use it, then what’s the point of having so much of it lying around?!
It’s interesting now that we talk about strength of using willpower cause there has been research done on neuroscience that explains this.
When we decide to act on something good for us, such as behaviour that gets us closer to our goals, we are using the prefrontal cortex of our brain – the rational and intelligent part of our brain. When we get tempted to do something not so productive, but more fun, we are letting our nucleus accumbens take over. They are constantly in a tug-of-war battle and when the situation falls down the middle, then it’s the dorsal striatum that will determine which side you will behave. The thing about the dorsal striatum is that it likes to do things that it normally does in that given situation. This is why it’s so hard to change a habit – good or bad!
The good news is, the dorsal striatum is malleable. That is, it can be rewired to do the behaviour that furthers your good habits instead of bad ones. It can also be strengthened the more you practice it. So it is a good strategy to keep honing the dorsal striatum towards your goals and you’ll find doing the good habit will become easier and easier!
This concludes the first tip in this series. Train that dorsal striatum in your brain, just as you train the muscles in your body. They both will get stronger!
Progress is the greatest motivator!