willpowerWhen people are behaving in ways that are inconsistent with their goals, it’s because they have run out of willpower rather than time, says a recent Business Insider article. The article went on to describe some fascinating research on willpower and how to preserve it. The article compares willpower to a computer: When you’re running too many programs at once, the system hangs and freezes. This is your willpower being depleted. Once this happens, you’re prone to mistakes. David Rock, author and director of the Neuroleadership Institute, has also done some excellent research on willpower. The science suggests that the intellectual portion of the brain is the controller of willpower and the enforcer of norms and rationality. More research on the topic has shown that the “bandwidth” of willpower is quite small, easily consumed and not easily replenished, which results in a loss of willpower just when you need it most. So what can you do to preserve your willpower? The Business Insider article had some good strategies. For instance, it suggested reducing the number of tasks on your to-do list, slowing down when doing those tasks, delegating more and practicing breathing exercises. While these suggestions are great for an ideal world, they’re not practical for reality. Who has the time to slow down or do less? Many people just don’t have that luxury. We have seen, first-hand, a successful alternative. Our solution preserves willpower and, at the same time, is aligned with work obligations. I know I keep harping on this… but the key is to develop a compelling purpose and path to mastery. A compelling purpose reduces your burden of decision-making, by providing a solid foundation for all decisions. It’s so simple, just ask yourself: Does this contribute to my purpose? If yes, proceed with the task, if no, stop. Similarly, having and following a clear path to mastery is very gentle on willpower. It creates the ability to process information more efficiently and in smaller but more meaningful pieces. I have one last technique: Write down the pressures that drain your willpower. The act of writing a simple list of distractions, worries and problems will suppress fear responses, which consume a huge portion of willpower. In addition, fear responses stimulate portions of the brain that can drain your willpower. The basic ideas to preserve willpower described in the article are spot on. But I think my ideas are more practical in a work environment.   Go ahead… try them out for yourself.  ]]>

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