In Kelly McGonigal's book The Willpower Instinct, she discusses willpower and self-control in great detail. In her discussion, she talks about what they are, and also how we can improve these things, and thus improving ourselves as a whole. There are many people who set out on some kind of personal mission, but then they end up failing pretty quickly because they simply did not control themselves properly. However, as she talks about, self control can be strengthened through proper activity. Some of the activities that she discusses to exercise self-control are meditation, breathing exercises, thinking about your choices, and more. With willpower, McGonigal says that there are three different categories. These include "I won't," "I will," and "I want." The "I won't" category refers to refusing to do something that you know is bad for you, such as staying up too late and depriving yourself of sleep. The "I will" category refers to getting yourself to do something that is beneficial to you, but may not feel good at the time. An example of this could be getting ahead on homework. The "I want" category refers to remaining focused on what your goals are in the long term and not losing sight of those.
One of my favorite parts of this book is when she discusses the problem with rewarding yourself too much with something that is bad for you. It is like celebrating your strong willpower by showing a lack of willpower. This stuck out to me because it is something that I almost always seem to be guilty of. I often try to control what I eat and avoid any unhealthy foods. I also try to workout daily in the gym. After six straight days of sticking true to this and keeping myself disciplined, I tend to reward myself with a full day of binge eating junk food while not exercising that day. It feels good at the time and satisfies my junk food craving, but then afterwards makes me feel like I just took away all the hard work that I had done in the previous six days.
One of the topics in the class was rewards, which includes reinforcers. Reinforcers can be either positive or negative. The positive ones are meant to increase a behavior and the negative ones are meant to decrease a behavior. The effectiveness of a reinforcer is dependent on each individual and different factors including their environment, situation, and needs. In the book, she talks about the promise of reward and how the brain can actually get hooked on it. Whether that reward actually comes or not, we are still highly anticipating that future reward, and a lot of times will hope that it will be even bigger. I think this can be seen in gambling, particularly sports betting, as many people put more money on parlays, which are much longer odds for higher payouts, as opposed to just single bets for less money.
I think that this book can help virtually any person out. As humans, none of us are perfect and we do not have great self-control at all times. Some people certainly have much better self-control than others, but there is always room for improvement. If people are able to improve their self-control on things such as exercising and eating properly, then more people will be able to live long and healthy lives. One of the biggest health problems today is obesity, and in many cases, people dealing with this could benefit from will power exercises that are talked about in this book.
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