A “simple intervention” approach to will power.

In this Authors@Google video, Kelly McGonigal gives us five “really simple interventions” – based on data (she teaches a course at Stanford called The Science of Willpower) to help people know how to be self possessed.

  1. Train your willpower physiology.
    Getting an extra hour of sleep predicted drug addicts’ resistance to relapse by a correlation of 0.7 – wow!
    Meditation also impacts the physiology of willpower – Just meditating for 10 minutes a day results in measurable improvements in the brain systems responsible for maintaining focus on goals and core values within as little as two months.
  2. Forgive yourself.
    People who don’t make themselves wrong are less likely to succumb to temptation. Anger at oneself is a distraction that doesn’t make it easy to stay in touch with one’s future goals and core values – and in one study people who wrote themselves “forgiveness scripts” that they would say to themselves in advance of a junk food breakdown were shown to be more impervious to the breakdown in the first place.
  3. Make friends with your future self.
    Study participants were asked to write a letter to yourself to themselves from their future self (five years from now), thanking themselves for overcoming a willpower challenge, and this was shown to help them deal effectively with that willpower challenge. People who “get” that as their future self they will be impacted by their experiences just as they are today are more likely to be self possessed than people who don’t.
  4. Predict your failure.
    Imagining yourself not succeeding in your willpower challenge can be an effective tool for enhancing will power, according to the data. Participants were asked to answer questions like “What will you say to yourself that will allow you to break your diet…?” and simply being in such an inquiry helped them stay on track.
  5. Surf the urge.
    Learn to pay attention to the physical discomfort of wanting something, trust that you can tolerate those sensations, and wait it out, breathe it out, knowing that it will eventually end just like a wave.