At this point, you may expect me to give you some tips on individual work on your free will. You may expect I will give you some seven habits or three things to do before breakfast, or five rules of assertiveness, etc.
Much of the advice, I know of, where the problem of free will (increasing control, fighting procrastination, etc.) is discussed is based on the assumption, that you should use the very skill you are weak in to improve yourself. Someone may be asked to wake up early, but this is nonsense if waking in the morning is the very problem of the person. It resembles the ability of legendary Baron Munchausen who was credited to be able to pull himself out of the mire by pulling his hair. Of course daily exercise, a glass of lemon juice in the morning, not eating after 6:00 p.m., plan of the day, etc. are useful practices, but you can practice them after you already have self-control. They are examples of usage of something you may lack.
You have to use your strengths to deal with the weaknesses. If free will and control is the problem, you may find it useful to tackle the problem from a different side. The inspiration for this recommendation came from interesting experiments with rats. It turned out that when rats in single cages are given a choice of drinking water or water with morphine, they sooner or later choose morphine, they got addicted to it, and finally die. But experimenters decided to create a rat amusement park. On a large area, the rats could walk freely with other rats, have access to some entertainments. In this place, the same choice of water and solution of morphine was given. Rats tasted the morphine once or twice but would prefer to stick to water and would not get addicted. It means that addiction is not the only issue of substance, but issue of relationships. I propose you to watch a wonderful TED speech linking loneliness, addiction, and strong will:
Addiction is the illness of free will. So it is interesting to know that it is not so much related to substance, but relationships. It may also explain why Alcoholics Anonymous – community-based treatment is so successful. I use these rather extreme examples to show you how important community is. We will come back to this topic when we deal with relationships.
The role of our workplace
One of the important questions we should ask ourselves is the question “Am I, by working in this organisation, becoming a better person?” This question is included in our previous topic of exposure and the tool we proposed. Unfortunately, management textbooks do not address such questions.
More and more research in willpower
If you think you should work on your self-control, I recommend two books:
More practical – full of exercises and tasks “The willpower instinct” by Kelly McGonigal based on Willpower course at Stanford University. You will find there that even 5 minutes of daily outdoor exercise may have a beneficial influence on the strength of our will.
And a book by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney “Willpower: Rediscovering our greatest strength” where authors precede the more practical topics with the history of beliefs about will and an overview of research on this topic.
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