Psychological Trick To Boost Willpower: Be More Humble
Sometimes it seems like you have to put your accomplishments on display. You have to show you’re smart, hard working, and competent.
But nobody likes a bragger. Or someone who’s narcissistic. Those people are either trying to impress someone, boost their ego, or repair their self-esteem.
Confidence isn’t bad. But we could probably all learn to be a bit more humble. Besides, humility is underrated.
It can even be used as a psychological trick to boost willpower.
Humility Boosts Self-Control
Self-control has been associated with a number of positive life outcomes. Better health, higher grades, and more income.
But there’s still a lot we don’t know about willpower and how it operates. Research conducted by a team of psychologists aimed to get a better understanding of self-control by looking for characteristics of people who exhibited this trait.
Their paper, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, conducted a variety of experiments and came to this conclusion:
…the findings provide direct and conceptual replication that humility can enhance self-control.
4 Tests of Willpower
Psychologists have developed a number of tests over the years to test people’s level of willpower. You may be familiar with the marshmallow test given to kids while adults leave the room.
Other tests have tested people’s will to see how long they can withstand uncomfortable sensations. This would included scenarios where participants would endure small electrical shocks or plunging their hand into ice cold water.
The scientists in the study, though, were worried that people might perform better on some of these types of tests due to different motivations. They argue that some people might be more motivated to succeed at tasks in general. Or that they’re more willing to follow instructions from authority figures.
They wanted to account for these different personality traits, which is why they used several types of willpower tests.
Before each test, the researchers had some individuals think about a humbling experience from their past. Others were told to recall a normal day or routine, such as doing laundry.
People were then asked to do one of the following tasks:
1. One of two different variations of a hand-grip test, squeezing the grip for as long as possible.
2. Resist eating M&M’s from a bowl placed in front of them.
3. Test their persistence by solving a tracing puzzle (which, unknown to them, was impossible to solve).
The researchers also looked at factors such as each person’s energy level, fear of failure, or how much they disliked or enjoyed the task.
After controlling for all these factors, it was the people who recalled humbling experiences that performed better. In each of the tests they either resisted longer or tried harder at the assigned task.
Why Humility Boosts Willpower
From a psychological standpoint the link between humbleness and willpower makes a lot of sense. This is because humility is based in modesty.
Modesty keeps you grounded, about yourself and your abilities. This deters us from making mistakes or lead us astray because of overconfidence. We’re more vigilant and cautious about what we do and how we do it.
But it also helps when we fail at a task. Humility can boost our resilience because we’re less critical of ourselves when mistakes do happen. This protects self-esteem, which allows us to try harder and overcome difficult moments when pursuing goals.
While it sounds logical, it’s always nice to see the evidence that backs it up.
The Power of Being Humble
The benefits of being humble don’t stop with self-control. Several lines of research have shown that humble leaders make some of the best CEO’s. Especially when looking at a company’s long term success.
But humility has also been linked to traits like generosity, reduced defensiveness, and better social relationships.
It’s not bad to occasionally showcase your strengths. As long as it’s done in a way that’s genuine and organic. Just don’t let it go to your head, because there’s power in being humble as well.