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What willpower?


One week into my caffeine free thirty days, and I give in to a large mug of the real thing. OK, so we had run out of espresso decaf and breakfast without any coffee seemed inconceivable.  There wasn't much in the way of alternative in the house, and everyone keeps telling me that tea has as much caffeine in it as coffee (I still want to think that may be folklore).  

Being particularly inquisitive this morning, and by the way with a head that feels woolly (was that the caffeine?) I had a search around the internet to see what I could learn about willpower.  It turns out that there is a lot on the subject, as I might have expected it's been a significant area of study for the psychologists and scientists.  So here's a summary of what I've learnt:

Willpower seems to be limited. 

Studies suggest that our levels of willpower deplete as we make use of it. We can hold out, but rather like a tired muscle, when overworked it is more likely to give in.  Self control seems to be at a particularly low ebb when we are mentally exhausted.  

Anticipate and plan for your times of low self-control.

It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to recognise when we are most likely to give in and lose our self control.  Add to this the knowledge that we will give in most when mentally tired gives us the foresight needed to anticipate when we are at risk.  It’s in these times that we have to draw on a plan.  What is your strategy for dealing with a lack of willpower?  If we put a contingency plan in place ahead of the fall, we are far more able to deal with it in moments of vulnerability.  

Drink some orange juice!

It turns out that glucose is one of the key ingredients that your brain needs for effective self-control.  A-ha I think, there you go, as one of the UK’s many diabetics, I can now take delight in understanding my appalling lack of willpower can in-part be blamed on my frequent wandering blood sugar levels ;-)  

So, without hesitation I am off the caffeine again.  My 30 day challenge is back on track as I reach for the carton of blueberries.  

Bob Bannister

Twitter: @bbbannister @iManage

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