Friday, August 7, 2015

The Science of Self-Control: A Focus on Willpower

            I chose to read The Science of Self-Control by author Howard Rachlin. Rochlin uses this book to propose a new science of self-control. He does so through principles of behavioral psychology and economics. Simply put, Rochlin believes there is more to controlling ones behavior than just utilizing self -knowledge. Self-control is very complex, but happiness is achievable through establishing patterns of behavior. These patterns are made, persist, can be destroyed, and also reconstructed. This books purpose is to ask how our behavior can follow rules and exhibit patterns, even when each pattern compromises something that we may prefer not to do at that time.
            My favorite part of The Science of Self-Control discusses will power; it suggests that people have a choice, and that there is something that motivates every human to be and do certain things. Inside each human is a soul containing concepts, reasons, and will. The soul is subject to outside influence, not directly by contact with the world. This suggests the power of temptation, something that everyone deals with throughout life. A person’s self is a functional interaction between behavior and environment. Ultimately, we react to what takes place in our surroundings. On a daily basis, we choose to be healthy, to go to work, among many other things, all of which rely on self-control. The book states that the first function of human power to reason is to resist temptation. Without that our reason would have never mattered. Beneath all the decisions we make, there is an underlying reason which we have formed within ourselves to justify it. Therefore, no particular act or pattern of acts can be judged by itself.

            The following video is an interview with Kelly McGonigal. She discusses the science of willpower, which I thought was appropriate being that the book I read was The Science of Self-Control and it goes so in-depth with willpower. She explains that in her definition of willpower, it has three powers: will, wont, and want. Most often, people assumed willpower is the ability to refrain from doing something, the power to hold back from temptation. To elaborate, I think the more important aspect of willpower, which Kelly mentions, is that willpower is the ability to stay in line with your goals and morals. This requires a great deal of self-control, but also a sense of understanding to know what is important to you and will make you achieve ultimate happiness through your decision making. William James explains this best through his principles of psychology. He suggested that habit is an enormous flywheel of society. A flywheel is a soft commitment device because it is easy to put on the brakes. However, the faster it spins, the greater the effort required to make it stop. Therefore, if everyone is as willful to achieve their ultimate happiness, and jump into it head strong with the desire to live a fulfilling life with self-control, they will have a hard time jumping off or stepping on the brakes.

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