It seems to be going around lately that willpower is something of which we have a limited supply. Use some on of your willpower inhibiting the thought of, or purchase of, or consumption of (etc) X, then you have less left over for the inhibition of Y. And Z. And the rest of the alphabet.
I’ve heard this lately in relation to poverty—that the stress of having less money such that you have to stress over the brand of toothpaste you buy, that that stress constantly uses up some of your supply of willpower. Call it your Power to Inhibit. In other words, one might be more likely to be undisciplined in other ways out of sheer will-power exhaustion, if one is financially challenged.
I’ve heard this same idea come up lately with regard to performance and workflow—for example, it takes the Power of Inhibition to maintain focus in a world of constant emails and texts and demands on your attention. You have to inhibit all those extraneous thoughts, temptations, and distractions, in order to stay with the work at hand. The more distracted you are, by either outer or inner interruptions, the less you can produce because your brain just runs out of resources.
I’ve also heard this idea with regard to eating—say no to yourself a couple dozen times about the cheesecake sitting in front of you, and eventually you will run out of the ability to continue saying no. And you will eat the cheesecake.
Is this a meme going around at the moment? Is there some study that has just come out with regard to brain function and neo-cortical resource allocation or something? Because I’m seeing it everywhere. Most recently in Your Brain At Work, which I picked up on recommendation in a post on work habits by Tobias Buckell, a cool SF writer, if you’re looking for something to read.
Anyway. I’ve been thinking about how these three (and many other) territories of our lives overlap in some complex quilt-like Venn diagram, where making myself get on the yoga mat, not eat chocolate for breakfast, not buy a new all stainless steel Super Angel 5500 juicer (40% more yield! It pays for itself!), while making sure I get up at 6AM to write in the mornings, all this and so much more, all this is drawing from the same, exhaustible well of my personal store of willpower.
I was thinking all of this, in fact, while staring at the mountain of shiny new ipods in Walmart the other day. We were there to purchase Luc a new non-chaffing bathing suit (very important)(he got a red one, very soft, $3 on clearance, SCORE) (as long as I don’t imagine some Asian twelve-year old being paid .50 cents to work 13 hour days at a factory job to make it) and we had achieved that, the bathing suit was in the cart, as well as some play-dough and some blank paper for Sophie. All fine and dandy, although Walmart terrifies me with its zombie greeters, its florescent lights, and its everything that you don’t need but somehow, suddenly, want.
Case in point, there they were, this mountain of shiny, new ipods, and I’ve been thinking on a new one for a while because mine barely holds a charge any more and [cue the violins] its memory is completely full, and it has no camera, and I have to baby it to get it to do anything with sweet talk and cord jiggling. So, when I saw the shiny mountain from across the crowded electronics aisle, I found myself gliding over the linoleum in slow motion, my children trailing behind me saying, “Mom? What are you doing? Hello? Earth to Mom?” until I had my face pressed up against the plexiglass of the locked display case that separated me from the pile of precious iGadgets.
There is no way in hell we should buy a $300 toy for me right now. We are drowning in last year’s medical bills and just scraping to get by. A couple of bucks for play-dough is our entertainment budget for the month, you get what I’m saying? Lassiter, are you hearing me? Drool started dripping down the glass.
And I’m not complaining because Luc’s arm works fabulously, and it wouldn’t have if he hadn’t had that $15,000 surgery, so I’m thrilled about that, because hey, they could have said, “No insurance? No treatment,” and sent us packing. But they didn’t, and he swings from trees like a monkey now, all from that little arm, hallelujah praise be! And besides that, we’re all healthy, and Paul has a great job, I’m making some money from my books, and we’ll be okay, it’s just tight.
But there I was, communing with the ipods, and I started thinking about how I was probably only considering laying down some serious plastic for that shiny little baubble because I probably had profoundly depleted willpower reserves. That’s all this was. A case of Empty Inhibition Tanks. What with the healthy eating, and the getting up at 6 to write, and the yoga practice, and the severely constrained finances…. Too much inhibiting, too much saying, “don’t look over there!” (where sleeping late, eating lasagna, not doing yoga, and buying this and that and the other thing over there, day in day out, where all resides, don’t look!). The little ipod, only $300. So meek and humble in its price tag, surely I could have a lowly ipod? Just one? Such a small thing for such a hard working person such as myself…
See? Too much No, and not enough YES. That’s what this was.
Is it possible to acquire more willpower reserves? Because I need a freaking willpower upgrade. My current willpower is clearly taxed beyond its present capacity.
I did finally manage to walk away. I didn’t buy it the ipod. Although I was kind of panting as I made my way away, far away, from the shiny mountain. I also did not buy a Super Angel Juicer, or a 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display and a fuck-load of flash storage and ram. I did not buy these things. And I did not consume more chocolate than I could lift. And I did get up yesterday morning at 6 and get my 1000 words, and I did hit the yoga mat. And had green juice for breakfast. Sigh.
Maybe this is a mid-life crisis. Is it fortunate, or lame, if my mid-life crisis is an ipod? Or a Macbook? Am I living a story that is worth telling?
Which dining set defines me as a person?*
Okay, okay, enough philosophy. Stop writing this blog post and go write on the novel, you aren’t fooling anyone, get to WORK, Lassiter.
But let me tell you, it is taking a tremendous amount of my tiny stash of willpower to write and not watch another episode of Samurai Champloo, an awesome anime, funny, trippy, fabulous characters, amazing martial arts, fun and also, at times, deep. I might have to eat some chocolate to compensate. In fact, clearly, that is the answer. I must keep the scales balanced, and chocolate will be a move in the right direction.
Chocolate is always a move in the right direction.
Or maybe, heck, maybe I’ll just go off the deep end and lose myself in debauchery and over-spending. Ooo yeah, now we’re talking!
*This is a quote from “Fight Club” a terrific movie, go see it if you haven’t.
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today's yoga practice
upcoming book releases
a few greatest hits
- lucille ball moment
- go, go, godzilla!
- yurts: the downside
- 2 stories, 1 joke, and a song
- flying kids
- crafts for karma
- the incredible hulk invades the yurt
- bikini power vs. the ratty sweater
- writing without pencil sharpening
- the way of the bento
- the emotional insanity of writing
- triple chocolate pudding goop, or, this way lies madness
- the power of mom’s day can melt even the most bitter of hearts, not that my heart is bitter, but it has gotten a bit crusty around the edges
- diggers watch tv, too
- living the tie-dyed life
- the source of my power
- bad things come in threes. or fours. (or maybe fives?)
- remains of the play
- the TOOL shed
- happy birthday, sophie!
- "Dusi's Wings" April, 2003. . . . "One thing fantasy can do for us is to give shape to the mysterious in the world; another is to make emotional yearning concrete. The early sections of "Dusi's Wings" do just that...there was a strong grasping towards the spiritual in fantasy here that was very promising, and I look forward to reading more by Lassiter." --review, Tangent Online.
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- Frances@Lila on ashtanga injuries: toe edition. (In a word, gross. Don’t even read this post. Seriously.)
- grimmly on ashtanga injuries: toe edition. (In a word, gross. Don’t even read this post. Seriously.)
- Shannon on strawberry fest 2013!
- maya on strawberry fest 2013!