Does your Iphone ever run out of battery? We all know the answer to this question. Countless times I’ve found myself trying to switch off every App in the futile attempt to save that last bit of power, ending up with a bitterly disappointed when the device switched off in my hand.
What has this to do with human willpower you might ask? If you reach the end of this article you might find yourself surprised by how similar your willpower is compared to a mobile phone battery.
Old beliefs, new discoveries
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We all have been taught that the brain stops its development at an early age. Once it’s developed that’s it. If you are lucky you might have grown a big fat brain and maybe soon enough you will get admitted to a prestigious college.
I still remember my mom telling me;
“You should never do drugs if you want to save those few neurons you have left. Those are all you have and they will never come back.”
I’m sure she had good intentions but what scientists have discovered in the last decade is quite different from what she believed. And about my beloved mom…well we all know that adolescents tend to always do the opposite of what they’re told by their parents. Thank God she was wrong!
Mind like a muscle
Recent studies have found that the Genius brain or prefrontal cortex works very much like a muscle when put under stress.
Ask your brain to get better at maths and it will get better at maths, ask the brain to get better at cooking and it will, ask the brain to get better at worrying and it will definitely become a top class athlete in anxiety.
It has been proven that focusing on a certain task will increase the blood flow to the correspondent area of the prefrontal cortex, (or genius) and with time, that area will grow denser and thicker. In other words, it will function more effectively.
The same principle applies to when we do weight lifting – by squeezing and contracting a muscle we increase its size and density. This principle can also be applied to our brain.
So would you like to get rid of the old sluggish and procrastinating brain you have on top of your head and increase willpower, to grow a new muscular willpower machine? If the answer is yes stay with me and let’s get back to the example of the Iphone battery.
Let’s imagine that our willpower works exactly like a battery
After a good night sleep we are totally recharged and almost ready to climb mount Everest, while juggling ten knives and reciting the whole Divine Comedy.
We get ready to go out but as soon as we step foot outside the door something unexpected happens: the wi-fi turns on.
Not literally, but we all know that leaving the wi-fi on will quickly deplete our Iphone battery because it will get bombarded by external signals.
The action itself of registering every source of connection requires more and more battery. If you ever done the terrible mistake of having it switched on after leaving the flat you might have found yourself asking the barista at your favourite coffee shop for a charger.
Our modern society is designed to bombard us with a never ending series of stimulations.
Ads, colorful chocolate bars, crossroad lamps, shocking news on the paper. Our brain is constantly stimulated and this act itself starts depleting our internal willpower.
If we add to that the choices we need to make at work, the drama with our partner, planning revenge towards our bosses or filling our next tax return we end up using much of our internal battery without even realizing it.
Did you ever heard someone saying “I don’t know why but I’m feeling so tired today,”? I believe you did, and maybe it was you saying it right?
The good news is that there is a way of training our willpower muscle to increase the size of our internal battery. If you want to know how, I suggest you read the tips in Part 2 of The Willpower Battery.
Connect with Expert Davide Alfonsi