Willpower 101 Making Changes that Matter Linda Mackay and Marilyn Perdue Counselling Services What is Willpower (and where did mine go?) • The ability to control our attention, emotions and impulses (desires). • The ability to act in a way that furthers our goals, even when doing something else seems immediately more appealing. Willpower: Why it Matters • Research on the Benefits include: people are happier, healthier, have longer more satisfying relationships, more money, more successful careers, better able to manage stress and conflict, live longer. • Self-control is a better predictor of academic success than intelligence. The 3 Components of Willpower • “I will”…. Something you have been avoiding or want to do more of (yes) • “I won’t”…A habit you want to break (no) • “I want”…Important life goals and things you value (to remember what you really want) Evolution Our Willpower Wiring • Our 2 minds: 1. instincts and impulses 2. impulse, self-control • The Prefrontal Cortex and Awareness (doing the harder thing) • Our Willpower Instinct: Pause and Plan (heart rate variability) How to Build Willpower Muscle and Train Your Brain for Self-Control • Five-Minute Meditation • Breath Control • The Relaxation Response • Exercise and Sleep Willpower: A Limited Resource • The physiology of willpower exhaustion • Stress, fatigue, poor diet, daily distractions • Regular practice: build willpower reserves! Willpower Pitfall Alerts • Being “good” encourages being bad: Moral Licensing • Feeling good and mistaking wanting for happiness: Dopamine “What-the-hell” effect Regret Indulgence indulgence Regret Willpower experiments • • • • • • • • catch yourself (awareness) wait 10 minutes pre-commit to future self anticipate traps/triggers/trip-wires map out success path stress-relief: practice what really works! don’t hold a grudge: forgive and move on a penny of pessimism vs blind optimism The Battle with Thoughts and Feelings • “white bear” exercise • avoid/run/distract/procrastinate: how’s that working? • ironic rebound: give up notion of control • acceptance Willpower Experiments • practice noticing your thoughts, feelings and body sensations • accept thoughts as mental events, not facts • surf the urge • 3 part compassion practice Your Willpower draw your own conclusions • how have your thoughts about your willpower changed? • what one thing caught your attention? • what are you going to take with you?