Why I can't do it?
I want to buy 100g of willpower, were can I get it and how much would it cost?
Every day we see crowds of people. Everyone is different and has his strengths and weaknesses. Each has reached different heights and are more or less satisfied with their lives. From birth, every baby has their level of willpower that should support them in their future life. The skill that allows achieving or to stop yourself at the right time. Lets take a look at this power from the scientific side and try to understand how does it work and why for one it is easier to quit smoking than to another.
The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment by Walter Mischel
In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one Marshmallow provided immediately or two
Marshmallow, if they waited for approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. During this experiment one part of participants ate reward immediately, second ones ate it later, and only a small part of children waited till the end to get their bonus. Twenty years later scientists checked the achievements of a child's from these studies and figured out that those who waited to get second marshmallow became much more successful in life.
Power to avoid temptations and overcome them is very useful in our aspiration to happiness, but what are temptations and pleasure from scientific view?
Pleasure is a strong emotion that we experience through the limbic system in the brain. Its impulses make us want and do what we want to do.
The prefrontal cortex is a part of our brain responsible for sustain desires. It distinguishes people from animals and is responsible for planning functions, keeping goals in mind and following them. The
prefrontal cortex closely communicates with the limbic system. The proper collaboration of these two
brain departments is the key to a strong willpower.
If the limbic system is too strong, or the prefrontal cortex is too weak or the connections between them do not work well, the person will easily be tempted.
Anterior cingulate cortex is another participant in the decision-making process. One of its functions is to register conflicts between desires and goals. Like, instant wish to eat all the pizza in the pizzeria.
Someone has to point out that this is an unhealthy choice and this “someone” is anterior cingulate cortex. Without its correct functioning, the frontal cortex will not have time to understand that the limbic system has decided and done something crazy, but enjoyable.
The insular cortex is another part of our brain that participate in decision-making. Interesting that one of its functions is the recognition of disgusting smell as well.
Experiments show that when we want to take something forbidden and at the same time understand that we shouldn’t do it, and we want to pull back our hand - Insular cortex reacts on it just as if we sniffed a rotten egg. It shows how unpleasant it is for the brain to cancel made decisions. If this part of the brain doesn't work correctly, the person would be almost incapable of changing his mind.
In the end, frontal cortex receives all signals from the channels and makes its decision on how you or I
will react in any situation.
Now the main question is why some people have strong will power and others don't. The scientists' answer to this is that partially this is determined by genes and partly by the environment.
Whatever the reason for problems with self-control, the result is the same - impulses of the limbic system are too strong, and the frontal cortex is not able to control them. Knowing that we can develop a strategy that helps to keep from temptation and lead us to our goals.
1. If you know that you continuously fail to resist any temptation, then stop assuring yourself that next time it will be different. At this point, your prefrontal cortex is too weak, or the metric system is too strong. Avoid situations in which you may be overwhelmed as most likely you will. Avoiding situations will help to prevent failure. Keeping a diary of reactions and failures can help you find the reasons and ways how not to repeat the same mistakes.
2. Come up with an emergency plan of actions. If you find yourself in a situation where you are left alone with the subject of your unhealthy passion, you will act as this plan says. Making a call to your relative or partner can help you out. Starting an instant conversation with somebody close can effectively change your inner mood, thoughts, and feelings and you will get extra time to get away from temptation you can't resist at this moment.
If you have any thoughts about this article we'd be really keen to hear your comments. Share your views in the comments box below.
Ways to calm your mind, read about it here.
Will and self-control: How genes and the brain prevent us from fighting temptations.
Irina Yakutenko (Original: "Воля и самоконтроль: Как гены и мозг мешают нам бороться с
соблазнами." Ирина Якутенко)