The willpower paradox

The willpower paradox

To be willing is to be able.” Or so we have heard. But recent research shows that setting your mind on a goal may be counterproductive:

[The researcher] identified some key traits needed not only for long-term abstinence but for any personal objective, from losing weight to learning to play guitar.


[One group] was basically putting their minds into wondering mode, while the [second group] was asserting themselves and their will. It is the difference between “Will I do this?” and “I will do this.”

The results were provocative. People with wondering minds completed significantly more anagrams than did those with willful minds. In other words, the people who kept their minds open were more goal-directed and more motivated than those who declared their objective to themselves.

The results seem counterintuitive, but:

[T]hose with questioning minds were more intrinsically motivated to change. …. Those who were questioning and wondering were open-minded — and therefore willing to see new possibilities for the days ahead.

As Jonathan Harris so eloquently puts it, guard your secrets, even those that you can only feel and sense, not state clearly to even yourself. Celebrate your lack of plan. Know what you want, but leave the future open.