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3 Ways Developing The Willpower Instinct Can Change Your Life

3 Ways Developing The Willpower Instinct Can Change Your Life

Stanford graduate, psychologist, and author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, Kelly McGonigal provides breakthrough ideas about how our minds interpret and act upon things in daily life. McGonigal is an advocate for willpower and seeks to help others harness the inherent quality of self-control that we all possess but sometimes do not know to shape or wield – whether it comes to managing addictions or maintaining discipline. Many things in life are addictive and the mind’s impulse will play tricks on you and do whatever it takes to attain its goal of immediate gratification. McGonigal created a very clear path of instructions that can help individuals to overcome and understand addictions, anxiety, depression, self-control, acting and more.

Below are a few of the major points of her guidelines to developing and maintaining willpower:

1. Addiction

Neuroscientists talk about how we have one brain and two minds. We have a mind that acts on impulse and seeks immediate gratification, and we have another mind that controls our impulses and delays gratification to fulfill our long-term goals. We face willpower challenges when the two minds have competing goals. Various study groups were created to test the results of McGonigal’s process of intervention. One major component learned is that when we decide we need “that “smoke or “that” drink, we need to stop, listen, and not act.

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We need to wait a few minutes and see if that desire to act upon impulse still lingers in your mind. The outcomes to date suggest that this process of delay has an 80%+ success rate. The smoker who wants to quit does not need any expensive tablets, gums, patches, hypnosis, or mediation from professionals to do so. Try this for yourself, it works! Believe it!

As a nicotine gum user for over two years, waking up one day and starting to play close attention to my wants, needs, and thoughts is exactly how one can manage to get over addictions. The simple act of shutting off immediate gratification is not easy. The sensations and feelings of addiction are literally 24/7. This becomes extremely obvious when you start to pay close attention to your thoughts.

Addictions come in many different aspects. The thrill-seeker is looking for that adrenaline rush, the foodies are looking for that experiential flavour sensation, the hobbyist is looking for that calm and excited adrenaline rush, the list goes on and on. Addictions can come in any shape or form. The frequency and rate at which any act is performed, constitutes an addiction problem.

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    2. Self-Control

    “Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness. People who meditate regularly aren’t just better at these things. Over time, their brains become finely tuned willpower machines.”

    – Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct

    You have to ask yourself, what does she mean by “willpower machine”? Well, when you meditate you are paying close attention to everything and anything around and inside you. You notice every tiny fleck, speck, and thought. Anything that could possibly influence you in any way whatsoever during the day is observed and analyzed. This is an extremely powerful tool for any person.

    The sheer act of realizing that you have two separate brains that each serve a separate purpose is the first key to “self-control”. Kelly McGonigal herself practices yoga as a means to connect to her mind, body, and spirit. These new strategies and others are discussed in her book, The WillPower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, as part of the Authors@Google series. Topics include dieting/weight loss, health, addiction, quitting smoking, temptation, procrastination, mindfulness, stress, sleep, cravings, exercise, self-control, self-compassion, guilt, and shame.

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      3. Stress Relief

      When you start to pay close attention to everything in the present, you start to gain insight as to how you should proceed forward in life. No person in their right mind should be avoiding anything that brings them happiness. Presentations are a perfect example of “avoidance”. The positives gained from a great preparation, research, execution, communication, etc. all outweigh the negatives. Any discomfort a person may feel before, during, or after a presentation dissipates in the wake of the all of the good things that show up to take its place.

      Scientists have demonstrated that dramatic, positive changes can occur in an individual’s life when they face extreme situations. The stress catalyzed positive psychological change and repaired psychological distress, a process different from post-traumatic growth but with similar outcomes. Successful post-traumatic growth (PTG), or benefit finding, refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.

      For more from Kelly McGonigal, visit http://kellymcgonigal.com/.

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      Featured photo credit: Bible Study Tools via biblestudytools.com

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      praveen nadaraju

      Classical & Computer Animator & Industrial Designer

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      Last Updated on March 30, 2020

      How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

      How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

      You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”

      There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.

      Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.

      The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory

      In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost.[1] Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.

      Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.[2]

      Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.

      Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth

      If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.

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      However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.

      In a 2013 study,[3] scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.[4][5]

      A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain

      How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?

      First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.

      My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.

      Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. [6]

      A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.

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      The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.

      How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity

      Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.

      So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.

      1. Performing Arts

      One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.

      Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.[7]

      One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi,[8] a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.[9]

      A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.

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      2. Visual Art

      Art teacher Betty Edwards[10] wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.

      Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.

      Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.

      3. Zone Out

      If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.

      I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.

      Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.

      Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.

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      4. Practice Mindfulness

      The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.

      Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

      You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises[11] into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.

      Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.

      Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.

      Final Thoughts

      So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.

      The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.

      Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”

      More Tips on Boosting Creativity

      Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

      Reference

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