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Willpower (Part I)

In their book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney share an amazing amount of information about willpower, or self-control. One interesting point they make is that a number of studies have shown two particular lessons concerning human willpower:

“1. You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.

2. You use the same stock of willpower for all manner of tasks.”

So your supply of willpower is fixed and is depleted by any number of activities – studying, exercising, dieting, being patient with others. What conclusions can we draw from this as it relates to studying and test preparation?

First of all, if you are involved with a rigorous test prep program, do not also attempt to start a new sport, learn a new language, and begin writing a novel all at the same time! When people make big changes in their lives or undertake new projects, their efforts are undermined when they try to make other big changes or work on other new projects at the same time. This is the reason why lists of New Year’s Resolutions almost always disappoint. There is only so much willpower in your tank, so focus on making ONE change at a time!

Second, it takes a tremendous amount of self-control to sit at a desk and work on a test for three to four hours under strict time constraints with only one break. Absolutely do not discount the draw on your energy that the test will take. To that end, proper diet, sleep habits, and exercise are extremely important aspects of your test preparation and should not be overlooked. More on that in the next post ...