Albert Einstein discovered and proclaimed that he had discovered a force more powerful than steam, electricity and atomic energy. He was talking about something as ordinary as incredible: willpower.
According to the American Psychology Association, willpower is "the ability to resist short-term temptations to achieve long-term goals." That is, the ability to work for gratification.
This force is what lies behind each great (and small) achievement, it is decisive to reach our goals: a promotion, an exam, a better body, quitting smoking ... This being so, it is normal for us to wonder how to exercise willpower. To figure it out, we propose to go through three scientific studies.
Walter Mischel was the director of one of the most important studies in history on delayed gratification. His thought seemed quite simple. Mischel asked a group of children to choose between receiving one sweet at the time or receiving two an hour later.
The study determined that children who managed to delay gratification had a stronger willpower than the rest, which does not seem an especially revolutionary conclusion. But the experiment was just beginning.
The young participants were actually subject to a long-term evaluation. Over the years, with children turned into adults, Mischel again analyzed how they had fared in their lives. And it turned out that those who were most successful in their adult lives were those who as children proved to have greater willpower. Success in life was measured in terms of education, work performance, health and other metrics. From this conclusion we can deduce not only the importance of willpower, but that it has an innate component that does not vary too much in time. According to Mischel it is impossible or very difficult to exercise willpower.
It contradicts, or at least qualifies, the field work of Roy Baumeister. This scientist understood that willpower worked as a muscle, also explaining that it can get tired if it is asked for continued effort.
According to Baumeister, our willpower depends on the level of energy available in our brain at any given time. To support this thesis, he conducted an experiment. The participants had to resist the temptation to eat chocolate and then complete a series of mental tasks. Those who managed to resist food had a worse performance in mental tasks, demonstrating his theory.
There is a third, much more recent, study. In 2010, Stanford University researcher Veronika Job and her colleagues suggested that our own beliefs about willpower could play a key role and accompanied this statement with a series of empirical studies. There is a motivational factor in willpower and therefore, in this case and as science shows, belief can become power with a positive mental attitude.
Although there is some controversy surrounding willpower, a growing amount of research suggests that it should be considered a muscle. That leads us to really think how to exercise willpower?
To strengthen a muscle, you need to exercise. When you work too much, you get tired and need time to recover. To exercise you have to maintain a positive attitude. Putting this in the context of self-discipline seems like a good starting point and an intelligent way to start training our mind. Now, at ARTIEM, we just wonder what's the best way to find willpower to train our willpower.