Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Importance of Willpower


The Willpower Instinct, by Dr. Kelly McGonigal, goes over the different parts of what willpower really is. There are many different working parts to willpower that must go together to either help us reach our goals, or allow us to betray ourselves and miss out on reaching said goals. A major part of willpower is the concept of self-control. This is a strong member of the decision making process, whether we go after something we want in the future or what is in front of us now. This is happening in the prefrontal cortex of the human brain. 

Decision making is always happening, whether consciously or not. When the decisions get harder, our brain is using more and more energy to try and reach a conclusion. Something that the book discusses is the idea of training your willpower. This is done with repetition of techniques to strengthen self-control, making people more aware of the decisions they are currently making. Just like a muscle, there are also limits that willpower and self-control can reach before hitting that exhaustion phase, this energy is stored in the person's willpower reserve. Self-control is something that can be controlled by our environment and the people that surround us. 

Dr. Kelly goes over many different theories in the book that also end up lining up together in certain ways. One of the first ones discussed is the Pause-and-Plan response, which is the opposite of the Fight-or-Flight Response. She also goes over the Halo Effect, which is something that can be seen on a restaurant menu; the What-The-Hell Effect, which is a cycle that goes along with guilt; Ironic Rebound, which is where we are thinking about something that we should not be; Delayed Discounting, where having to wait for something lowers its value to us. There are many more interesting topics that Dr. Kelly goes over, such as procrastination and  how we believe our future selves to be different from the way we are now. She also goes over things about how stress persuades us to break away from our longtime goals and how dopamine tricks our mind with the use of the reward system. 


Favorite Part and Extension:

In chapter six, the topic that I found most interesting was the “What-the-Hell Effect”. I found this topic the most interesting because it is something that I deal with personally. Though I might have not faced it as ‘indulgence’ more like depression, it still keeps that same cycle happening. When in a depression mindset, I would realize that I am worrying the people around me, and start to feel that guilt happening, which in turn would lead into the depression getting worse, and the cycle would just keep continuing on unless something changed around me. 

The section about breaking the What-the-Hell Cycle was very informative about what I can do when I feel the depression starting to set in again. The way that Dr. Kelly talks about breaking the cycle is with self-forgiveness and not being hard on yourself. Being kinder to the self is able to help with motivation, which when getting into the depressed state is something that people may struggle with finding. Trying to input the technique of being kind to myself, either when I am going down the depression spiral or even when I notice myself being a bit too harsh, is something I can add to my everyday life and help keep myself out of the effect. 



Willpower and self-control is something that needs to be strong with those who are trying to break an addiction of some kind, for example drugs. In the beginning, when battling with withdrawal symptoms is where they will need it most. These symptoms are never pleasant no matter what the addiction is, whether it is a shopping addiction or a cocaine addiction. The unpleasant feelings will make the user want to go back to the life they were just trying to escape from and they will give in to those cravings that they have. When looking at this through the eyes of Ironic Rebound, the person's operator is not strong enough to overpower the monitor, the instant gratification is a much easier reach than waiting until the feelings went away on their own. Something that may be able to prevent the user from going back to their substance is group therapy, just being around people who are encouraging others to get better and having that environment where they can share their accomplishments they are making during these times.

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