We live in a world of constant stimulation, more choice on a daily basis than our ancestors may have experienced in a month or year. Many people feel they want or should try to go after everything or that they are losing out if they don’t.
We are giving into or resisting temptations constantly – some research says as much as four hours a day! And yet when asked about the virtues they most aspire to or feel they possess, self-control and willpower are at the bottom of the list.
Has self-control become a lost character strength or virtue? Let’s hope not because think how important it is and what lack of self-control and willpower costs us…
- Compulsive spending
- Underachievement in school and work
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse
- Unhealthy diet
- Lack of exercise
- Impulsive violence
- Chronic anxiety
- Lack of planning for the future
Think of the athletes, politicians, religious leaders and and yes, those of us not-so-famous folks who have lost so much due their lack of self-control and willpower. What have you personally lost or missed out on in your life because you didn’t have the ability to stop yourself from certain things or to get yourself to do others?
I can resist everything except temptation. ~Oscar Wilde
The Marshmallow Experiment
In the 60s, Walter Mischel and his colleagues were studying children and their ability to resist immediate gratification. They would bring in a four-year-old child one at a time and show him or her a marshmallow. Before leaving the room they would let them know that they could eat the marshmallow at any time but if he or she waited until they returned, the child could have two to eat.
Approximately twenty years later they tracked down hundreds of the children who were now in their mid-twenties and found some fascinating information.
The children who had held out for a full 15 minutes…
- Had gone on to have higher grades and test scores
- Had on average scored 210 points higher on their SAT scores
- Were more popular with their peers and teachers
- Earned higher salaries
- Had a lower body mass index
- Were less like to have had issues with drugs and alcohol
In wrap up today for this short blog on willpower, I encourage you to think of willpower as a muscle. Each day make a conscious effort to flex and strengthen it and enjoy the benefits! And if you ever need any help with this, I’m just a phone call or email away 😉
If you’d like to learn more on this subject, there is a wonderful book entitled, “Willpower: Resdicovering the Greatest Human Strength” by Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney.