The role of willpower

WillpowerGetting your body/mind to consistently do the right things (and refrain from doing the wrong things) through pure willpower really seems to be completely impossible. I’m sure that you’ve tried to use willpower before to do things like lose weight or study for an exam. How did that work out? If you are anything like me you probably found it to be painful before, during and after whatever it is you tried to accomplish (without actually accomplishing much).

No, the human will was definitely not designed to consistently control your body/mind like a software package controls computer hardware. It is only designed to control those few seconds it takes to launch the correct software application. Nothing more.

Indeed, the correct application of the human will is to set up a whole range of intelligent micro-environments (spaces within which doing the right thing becomes automatic and natural) and to smoothly transition between these environments depending on the particular situation. That’s why the entire One in a Billion action plan is about setting up the intelligent micro-environments required to maintain a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life. The role of willpower is simply to gradually set up these environments and to navigate between them.

pain-and-pleasureAs described in the previous post, human behavior is mostly controlled by the instinctive drive towards instant pleasure and away from instant pain. I call these perceptions of instant pain/pleasure “mythical utopias” and “artificial hells” because they are simply no longer valid within our modern world with its amazing range fossil fueled conveniences.

If left unchecked, these primitive behavioral drivers will cause us to consume ourselves to obesity, bankruptcy and depression while rendering us totally oblivious to real threats such as resource depletion and climate change. If we are to function appropriately within our modern world, we have to use our very limited willpower to manage these instinctive drives by means of intelligent micro-environments.

Overweight trends

In essence, an intelligent micro-environment is just a place where the brain sees beneficial actions (healthy eating and exercise, responsible personal finances, energy and resource conservation, heightened productivity, healthy personal relations etc.) as instant pleasure and destructive actions (the opposite of the above-mentioned) as instant pain. Building such an environment might look difficult at first glance, but it really is much easier than you might think.

All that is needed is that you apply your limited willpower to initiate the process of building your first intelligent micro-environment…

Filed under: Mental control – Basic control

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