Editorial – Measuring Willpower

Here is a question that few ask. How much willpower does it take for you to get through your average day?

It is an important question because we know that willpower is an exhaustible resource. We can use if up if we rely on it too heavily. If so, we might consider keeping track of how much willpower we use. Like watching the gas gauge in the car.

How do we do that? Good question. We might be able to do it via indirect measurement. We can sense how much resistance we feel to do things. How often do we feel the urge to give up? The more we feel that urge, the more we have to resist it to stay in the game. And the more we resist, the more willpower we use up

We might take this one step further. Where does our resistance come from? Game theory suggests that when we join in a game, resistance to further play disappears. We experience “flow”. Two factors disrupt play (1) a sense of being overwhelmed or (2) a sense of boredom. In the first case, we give up in the face of impossible odds. In the second case, we have nothing to give up. We are trapped in drudgery.

So willpower may be seen as a backup tool when games fail. Then we need some strategic thinking to get back on track.

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