We're facing another stinking year, people. Some of you will be tempted to make some kind of promise to yourself for the new year. Don't do it. According to the "willpower paradox," the determination to do something weakens your will.
One study uncovered what seems to be a "willpower paradox" — the very act of deciding that you're going to do something makes you less likely to do it. Ibrahim Senay, of the University of Illinois, set up a study in which people try to successfully unscramble anagrams. As a test of willpower, it's no Everest, but it did turn up some interesting results. As part of the study, some people were told that they would complete some anagrams. Others were asked to think about whether or not they would do some anagrams. Guess which group finished more anagrams?
The low-achieving group could be simple rebellion; no one likes to be told what to do. Still, that result fits with the results of a variation on the experiment where one group was asked, "as a handwriting sample," to write the words "I will." The other group was asked to write, "Will I?" Again, the less decisive group wrote more than the group that wrote the affirmation.
So perhaps, facing this coming year, you should rethink your traditional New Year's resolutions. Don't say, "I will do this," or "I will do that." Say, "Oh delicious mystery of life! Oh wondrous outpouring of possibility! Shall I use part of this year training for a triathlon? Shall I volunteer at a soup kitchen and learn to speak Portuguese? Shall I go seek a group of mountain gorillas, learn their gentle ways, and teach them sign language? Who can know? The world is meant for discovery and exploration and I tremble with joy as I contemplate what this year might bring!" It might help to have some booze first.
Image: K B.
[Via Scientific American]