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You Lack Discipline

This is how you get it.

by Greg Presto
Feb 16 2017, 6:06pm

If you're scrolling through your Instagram looking for "fitspiration," you're wasting your time.

That is, at least, what the Internet would tell you right now. Countless articles, blog posts, and memes will tell you to forget motivation and instead embrace discipline. While motivation fires you up to go do a workout or re-energizes your quest to quit smoking, discipline, according to this trendy line of thought, is as it was defined by Arnold Schwarzenegger: "What you use when you don't want to do something. You have to force yourself."

And that sounds great. There's no question it would be best to be able to consistently will yourself to do things you don't want to do in the moment. It would be fantastic, as the memes suggest, to have discipline. But how do you develop it? What does science say about moving from a need for motivation to actually having it? We decided to find out.

Figure Out Why Your Goal is So Important Just like the memes suggest, the amount of willpower you have—psychologists call it self-control—is limited. Some scientists, including Mark Muraven, a professor of psychology at the University of Albany, believe that this limitation may be physical. Muraven believes that the brain's stores of glucose may be depleted over time by the use of self-control, leading to a tank of it eventually running empty.

"Cigarette smokers, for example, when they wake up first thing in the morning, their nicotine levels are lowest because they've gone 12 hours without smoking," Muraven says. "But most relapses happen at night because they've now spent the entire day dealing with stress, using self-control not to scream at their boss or whatever. So now when they get home, they're depleted. They can't fight that urge to smoke anymore."

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