Neil Thompson’s Lesson for Living – There’s no such thing as willpower

To hear people talk about willpower you would think it was some mystical power that we all have to varying degrees. Those with a lot of will power are able to do difficult things like give up smoking or lose weight, while – or so it would seem – those with a low level of willpower are doomed to continue smoking or continue to be overweight. The reality is not so simple.

As human beings we are complex creatures, and part of that complexity is facing conflicting desires. I want to lose weight, but I also want that extra portion of potatoes and a piece of cake to follow it. I can’t have it both ways, so what happens? Well, in short what will happen is that I will follow the course of action that represents what I want more. If losing weight is more important to me than enjoying those calories, then I will resist the temptation. However, if the pleasure of consuming those calories appeals more than the idea of losing weight, I will choose to tuck in. There is no magical or mystical ‘willpower’ – it boils down to which we want more …

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