Purpose in Life Boosts Your Willpower
I’m pretty bad when it comes to resisting temptation.
This is especially true when it comes to food. And by food, I mean things with sugar in it.
I’ve always had a sweet tooth. If there’s bite-sized chocolate anything sitting out in the open, chances are it won’t last long.
Truth is we all struggle with temptation throughout the day. And it just isn’t food. Self-control ranges from dietary concerns, exercise, to that emotional control you need when you feel like screaming in someone’s face.
We all wish we had a little more willpower, and wonder what we can do to get ourselves under control.
A recent study has discovered that there’s a little known fact about willpower. Researchers found that purpose in life boosts your willpower and people who have it are better at exercising self-constraint.
Determining Levels of Willpower
It might seem a bit odd that purpose in life boosts your willpower, but that’s what researchers from Cornell University revealed from their study.
They had 503 adults answer two different questionnaires. One that took inventory of their personality and another that measured how much they believed they had meaning in life.
Participants then took part in a classical psychological discounting game. The game is commonly used in psychological studies to measure levels of self-control.
The mechanics of the game are pretty simple. Players go through multiple rounds and players are given a choice each time. They can take a smaller amount of money now, or can take a larger sum of money at a later date.
For each round the researchers adjust the numbers. It might be the amount of money given upfront, the length of time to receive the larger amount, or the future payoff for waiting.
Using these different numbers and the decisions people make, the scientists can tease out how impulsive or how much self control a person might have.
Why Meaning Gives You Willpower
As you may have already guessed, the scientists found that more purpose in life boosts willpower.
Here’s what they write in their paper:
Individuals who reported a greater sense of purpose preferred larger future gains to smaller immediate ones.
Importantly, these results persisted after accounting for dispositions in personality traits and positive (emotions), suggesting a robust and unique association between having purpose and future-oriented behavior.
So less purpose, meant that you were more impulsive. And less likely to wait for a bigger reward. Results remained the same even when researchers accounted for positive moods – which have been known to affect decisions.
So why the difference?
Scientists speculate the link is caused by focusing our attention on the future. To some task or end goal that will be accomplished in the future. This forward thinking and direction on a future goal makes us less inclined to give into our impulses in the present.
This strong sense of direction or purpose therefore gives us the ability to resist distractions in our everyday life. To put it in other words, a clear purpose – or goal – boosts your self-control.
More Than Willpower
Meaning in life can do more than give you a sense of direction. It’s been shown to help you live longer, give you more life satisfaction, and boost your immune system. And now, purpose in life boosts your willpower.
The problem is you can’t just walk into a store and order yourself a meaningful life. Finding meaning for many can be a difficult task. It’s a personal journey for all of us.
While beneficial, it’s not always easy. If you don’t quite have a strong sense of purpose right now, don’t worry. The best thing is to enjoy the journey of discovering it.