Survey shows lack of willpower is the top reason people fall short of goals
Posted February 21, 2012
Almost everyone living in America made a resolution to change some aspect of their behavior in 2012, according to a survey released by the American Psychological Association (APA). Yet people consistently report that a lack of willpower is the top reason they fall short of their goals to lose weight, save more money, exercise, or make other lifestyle changes.
The survey conducted online by Harris Interactive as a continuation of APA’s annual Stress in America™ poll found that out of 566 adults, 93 percent of people set a goal to change their behavior this year. However, many Americans report lack of willpower as a significant barrier to achieving their goals.
People can enhance their willpower if they can learn to deploy it more effectively, according to a companion report released by APA. "What You Need to Know about Willpower: The Psychological Science of Self-Control" explores leading research into the nature and consequences of people's ability to exert self-control. This research suggests that willpower is correlated with positive life outcomes such as better grades, higher self-esteem, greater financial security and improved physical and mental health. The capacity for self-control appears to be persistent throughout a person’s life: research shows that those with better self-control as preschoolers tend to have better control as adults. But, just as muscles are strengthened by consistent exercise, regularly exerting self-control may improve willpower strength over time, recent studies suggest.
"Self-control can be learned and strengthened," said Steven J. Breckler, PhD, a social psychologist and executive director of APA's Science Directorate. "For example, avoiding the sources of temptation and planning ahead are effective techniques for maintaining self-control. Research shows that exercising your willpower in one situation may drain your self-control for other situations that immediately follow. So, just like with physical exercise, it is smart to avoid taking on too much at once. First, focus on one goal, strengthen your willpower, and then take on more goals over time."
To read the full report, visit APA's website.
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