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Why does our willpower fail us?

Updated: Feb 24


We've all been there. We make these great new year's resolutions and we start the year so optimistically. It may be as a parent we organise the kids, buy new school shoes, set new homework routines and we think we are done. Then 3 weeks into the school term we've lost the impetus and willpower to enforce the new homework routine. You aren't alone - this is a common occurrence.


A study in 1988 at the University of Scranton found that 77% of people who committed to a New Year's resolution for a week. However, only 19% of those who made resolutions actually fulfilled them within 2 years. Article here


To live a life in purpose, you need to be striding towards your future and taking action. It can take patience, hard work, resilience to achieve goals and these require willpower. I recently read 'Life on Purpose' by Victor J. Strecher. He explained that willpower can be strengthened and weakened like a muscle.


A study conducted at Stanford University gave students either a 2 or 7 digit number to remember then sent them down to another a room to recall the number. During the walk, they were offered a snack of either fruit or chocolate cake. 59% of students trying to remember the 2 digit number chose the fruit while only 27% of the students trying to remember the 7 digit number chose the fruit. The longer number required more mental effort and their willpower was depleted by the time the cake came along.


I experienced this myself. just recently. I was preparing a pack for a presentation and I came to a few stumbling blocks. To help me get through these, I went for comfort food.


Maybe you can remember a time of low willpower. A tough assignment at work, an argument with a family member or any time of stress. This may have contributed to the depletion of your willpower.


Another college study tested the self-transcending values (support for others, spirituality, community) versus self-enhancing values (power, fame, wealth, attractiveness etc). The students were told they didn't get into a class (to deplete their egos). Then they were divided into 3 groups who had to write about the following topics:

  1. Daily routine - this was the control group

  2. Self-enhancing values

  3. Self-transcending values

The students were then offered cookies. On average the

  1. Control group - ate 8 cookies

  2. Self-enhancing group - ate 5 cookies

  3. Self-transcending group - ate 3 cookies

The conclusion was affirming self-transcending values produced the greatest surge of willpower.


I found these studies fascinating, especially as I have reflect back on my own behaviour and watch my children's behaviour I can see when their willpower is depleted.


So what do you do with this knowledge?


  1. Be alert for your weak moments. When these happen, review your vision board, check your focus and ask yourself, what can you do in these moments to stay the course,.

  2. Ensure that you have balance in your life and you have some focus on your self-transcendence values.

  3. Look for other sources of willpower. A good night's sleep, exercise, clarity on your visions, being present in the moment, healthy diet. These have all been proven to improve willpower factors.

If you'd like to know more, book in for a 30-minute free healing consultation session to discuss what might work for you. If you and or someone you know in your network would like to explore healing, then feel free to pay forward this opportunity!


In love and light,



Fiona



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© 2020 Fiona Djapouras , Sydney Australia or Globally via Zoom or Skype 

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