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Melissa G

I see "ego depletion" encapsulated during a chess match, but it took the other team's coach to verbalize it: she noticed that in the first game the players won with much more material on the board, while the second match was more a battle of attrition. And yes, these elementary-age students are tired out if not exhausted when it is all over.


Very interesting, I've never heard of ego depletion before. I do think willpower is a limited resource, but it's also a renewable one.


It's funny how we (and I mean scientists here) still separate mind and body. All that organizing, disciplining, reassessing takes mind energy...which means it takes body energy, which means we get tired. Somehow, we still expect that we won't.

Frankly, I find it amazing how many of us get so much done, whether it's knitting sweaters or spinning entire fleeces or running half-marathons or remembering to fill the bird feeders most days.

Now the question for me becomes: so why does knitting or hanging out with friends replenish the ego energy?


Self control is highly overrated. Do what feels right in the moment...that's my motto. Someone what needs to "get done" does and the other waits in turn.

Caroline M

You can't fight a war on too many fronts. If you were to concentrate on one thing for three months and then move on you might find it easier than tackling everything all at the same time.

This year I am mostly sorting out the fibre with a side order of sock yarn reduction planned for later in the year. The two hour's walking a day was standard issue with the dog.


Me again. So, if there is a limited amount of self-control energy available, what are you willing to give up active control over, in order to get to your newly stated goals? Are you willing to let go of an organized sock yarn stash in order to lose 10 pounds? Can the paperwork pile up while you exercise every day?

Is there a way to structure the demands for self-control, such that the overall level decreases? The best example I can think of for this is making a list, then doing the items. It takes self-control to make the list, but once the list is written down, one no longer needs to exercise control over remembering all those things to do. One simply needs to remember: Do the list. And of course, part-way down the list, many of the remaining items suddenly become less important, oddly, or so I've found.

I think this is a fascinating subject that needs in-depth discussion over some knitting and a glass of wine.


I think I need to join you and Lynn over some wine and discuss this to death. Fascinating idea.


Every morning when you wake up, decide what is the *one thing* that is the most important to you to accomplish that day. Let that one thing be where your focus is, and let all other self-control areas take secondary roles.
If the one thing for today is exercise, then exercise like a madwoman, and allow yourself to be happy with only spending 10 minutes (or even less) on organizing the file folders. Tomorrow, devote some quality time to the organizing, and let the exercise consist of dancing in the kitchen while making supper.
Self control is a wonderful thing, but don't forget the joy.


Baumeister's work was the subject of an article in New Scientist (10 Sept 2008). I found it particularly interesting that exercising willpower (or other concentrated brain activity) actually burns calories, and that glucose intake can boost willpower. I think this partly explains why I can accomplish almost anything using dark chocolate as fuel.

Will now exercise willpower and get back to work. I can't justify procrastination because today is not a gym day :-)


I'm intrigued by the idea of a "positive mood stimulus." Would a martini count? LOL


I can completely "get" this and how wonderfully validating that there's an actual paper written on it. :)

I would like to see one written on the flip side by a vet as to why multi-day horses (assuming they aren't overtaxed by being undertrained/conditioned) improve as each day goes on in a 5-day race. It seems counterintuitive, doesn't it?


Interesting concept. I get it though. Thanks for the article. I do so well on weight watchers for a week then slide down the next. hmmmm.........


I like Lynn's idea of a list. Organizing and reassessing my stuff is a priority here too.

Interesting read today!


I'm pleased to know that it's a "thing" and not just me being a slacker :-)


This does make a lot of sense, and because it's something I've struggled with, I've found that (to take your analogy of running a 10k further) it's important to condition before the race.

So, I start small, and as one thing becomes routine, I add another (sort of like adding strength training to regular cardio workouts), and when that additional thing becomes routine, I add yet another (the first series of longer distance runs). That's the ONLY way I can be successful when trying to add or modify behaviors. It also helps me retain my focus, because I'm really only focusing on one thing at a time, because the other things are so enmeshed in my routine that I don't have to expend a lot of additional energy thinking about them.

As always, your post was thought provoking and timely!


Fascinating. Must read more about this.


Your post and all the comments are interesting. Maybe that is why resolutions don't get made here. I just vow to be more focused and centered. And what gets done, gets done. Excercise is deemed "play", knitting is "art class", all the rest falls into place. Yes, it is mind games, but they don't exhaust the player. LOL


ego-depletion is a term that is unfamiliar to me, yet the concept is fascinating.
I have found that setting reasonable small goals on an immediate basis is often more beneficial than long term investment of continuous work.
And so, the real trick is to just show up every day, and do it again in the new way, until the new way becomes the habit.
rather like Rainer Marie Rilke's concept of living the questions, until one day we live our way into the answer...

Caroline M

Elisa said it better but I'd like to plead lack of caffeine as a mitigating factor.


Ah...Dillon Beach. The scene of high school senior cut days....Oh, a sweater. Right.


I'm good at prioritizing (the ONE thing I want to get sonw today) but sometimes reality slaps you in the face - like today, when i realized after completing the part of the cleaning I intended to do today that the reason the upstairs part of our loft was so hot was that the ceiling fans weren't on. I turned them on, and -

snow fell. Ugly dirty dust ball snow. SO had to drag the vacuum upstairs and the HUGE tall ladder and clean the fan, and leave them off until partner got home and could help me while I knocked the dirt off the one that hangs over the 30 foot drop. SO my spinning time got knocked down to 40 minutes from an hour and a half. Sigh.

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