We’re three days into 2018 – how are your New Year’s resolutions going? If you stumble along the way, you’re not alone – some research shows that up to 80 percent of people who make a resolution will have given up on it by February.
Why do we falter so much when it comes to self-control? Professor Marco Palma, director of the Human Behavior Laboratory at Texas A&M University, says there are two contradictory theories about self-control – an initial act of self-control is either a motivator and an indicator of success, or it’s the opposite. Under that theory, self-control is like a battery. When you begin to exercise it, you begin to lose the power needed to keep it up.
Palma says both theories are right. “Self-control has the components of a snowball also the components of a battery,” he says. “The more you use it, the better you get at it, but if you overdo it, you’re less likely to accomplish more self-control ability.”
To test the theory, Palma conducted research using traditional behavioral experiments, along with neurophysiological data. Palma and his researchers observed what subjects did as they exercised self-control, as well as how they behaved later, when self-control was called for.
“What this means is that if you go to the gym in the morning and exercise mildly, you might be able to use your self-control ability through the day,” Palma says. “But then if you overdo it and go two hours, your self-control battery might burn out.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.