Is Willpower Finite and Infinite? and How Conservation Helps

I’ve been reading a helluva lot of books on the subject of willpower.  Why?  Well, willpower has a lot to do with fitness and meeting our wellness goals.  Plus, I’ve been struggling recently to find the focus to write.  From his book “Willpower”, Roy Baumeister tells us that willpower is the ability to do what you need to do, regardless if you feel like doing it.  

Unfortunately, according to Baumeister, this  “queen of all virtues” is apparently not an unlimited source that we can just muster up whenever we need it.  In one of his studies, college students were brought in to participate in what they thought was a test on cleverness by working on geometry puzzles.  They had fasted beforehand, and to add to the complexity, the lab had baked cookies and had them in a room with a bowl of radishes. Some participants were allowed to indulge in whatever they wanted.  Others were told they couldn’t have any cookies, and then were left alone.  Observers wanted to see if they had the willpower to resist.  The students would look at the cookies and smell them, but none of the students succumbed to temptation.  After their time in the room with the cookies and radishes, the participants were finally given their geometry puzzles.  Only problem was the puzzles were impossible to solve.  After exhausting their willpower from the previous room,  how long would these students work on an impossible puzzle?  Those who had been allowed to eat what they wanted worked on the puzzles for the same amount of time as those in the control group, about 20 minutes.  Those who were denied their temptation only worked on their puzzles for an average of 8 minutes.   This study provided evidence that willpower can be exhausted.

Why is this important?  When we are embarking on our fitness journey, we need to remember that our willpower is still rather weak.  If you’ve ever “forced” yourself to do your workout and then found you couldn’t resist stuffing your face afterwards, it’s not an uncommon dilemma.  We need to strengthen our willpower, work it out like any other muscle, so we can do what we need to do without thinking about it.  This principle takes time.  It’s worth it in the long run, but it does take some patience.  Once you strengthen your willpower in one area, it starts to seep into other areas of our life.  If you can develop the habit without even thinking for logging your meals, you may also find you aren’t struggling to remember taking your supplements or drinking water.  Is our willpower infinite at this point?  Well, maybe, but I do have a method that will give a seemingly infinite amount of willpower in an instant.

Willpower within ourselves is limited.  It’s weak.  But if we borrow that willpower from outside ourselves, we have an infinite supply.  Where can we borrow this unlimited amount of resolve?  That’s what Conservation Fitness is really all about.  It’s about finding that soft spot in the wild to help motivate you and encourage you, even when your own discipline fails.

With Conservation Fitness, your willpower comes from within you, and when you need it most, it comes from the stories of endangered animals.  Our everyday actions have a dramatic impact on the environment.  Everything from getting cardio exercise, eliminating processed and overly packaged foods, getting outdoors, eating whole, organic foods, and even preparing our meals at home can help save some of our favorite animals around the world from extinction.

Polar bears become your workout buddy to motivate you to get out of bed and run or bike places instead of driving.

Orangutans and elephants remind us to check labels and say no to processed foods with palm oil in them.

Sea turtles help us to reduce our waste and avoid over-packaged processed foods.

Orcas encourage us to eat sustainable seafood.

Salamanders teach us how to eat sustainably even when we are out on the town by eliminating our paper waste.  Better yet, they can show us how to reduce our trash by eating at home or preparing our meals from home.

Honeybees give us a healthier and more sustainable alternative to sugar, and will help keep the pollinators around for future generations.

Wolves inspire us to explore the great outdoors and find our own “sacred space”.

Sloths show us how to eat the breakfast of rainforest champions.

By calling upon our Power Animals when we are at the grocery store, or tempted by office treats, or feeling lazy and not wanting to get up and move, we are re-energizing our own stores of willpower to conquer our day, smash our fitness goals, and save the planet!

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