You enter a waiting room awash with the smell of fresh baked cookies. From across the room, you spy a table display with a platter of said cookies… next to a plating of (lovely?) red and white radishes.
You’ve come here to take part in a puzzle-solving experiment. You take a seat as instructed, fill out some paperwork. The scent of the cookies is driving you nuts!
The instructor enters, comments on the wonderful smell and how beautiful those cookies look! But alas, she says, they are for a group to follow. The talk turns to your upcoming test.
She then takes the paperwork and says she’ll need just a few more minutes in the other room to finalize the test prep. But please, while you’re waiting, have some of the lovely radishes!
You have a couple of the radishes. Cold comfort compared to those damn cookies!
Then the test. Solving a series of – unbeknownst to you – unsolvable geometric puzzles. Also (and again unbeknownst to you) you are being timed for how long you engage at trying to solve these puzzles.
This was, in fact, an actual 1996 psychological study by Baumeister (et al) which tested the energy-depletion hypothesis of willpower.
Compared to the control group who were encouraged to have a few of those warm, fresh baked cookies, the radish-eating group spent less than half the amount of time trying to solve the puzzles. This same group also recorded about half the number of attempts at answering them.
Sucks for you that you weren’t in the control group!
The conclusion: in resisting the temptation to eat the warm cookies, the radish eaters had depleted a good bit of their mental energy or what’s commonly called willpower.
Willpower is a finite resource; spend it wisely. Systems and processes (a solid script!) will keep you from having to needlessly squander your willpower account.
Can willpower be strengthened? Indeed it can.
But it’s the same as with sprinting: I can make anyone faster. Much better than you are now.
But unless you’re born with the inherent physical tools and with optimal biomechanical levers, you’ll never be a world champion.
And that’s ok.
The goal is to be the best YOU possible. Not a facsimile of someone else.
Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world –