Willpower – which approach do you take?

So you have decided on a goal and know exactly what you want and when you want it by. There is still one more decision to make – will it be the all nothing approach or everything in moderation approach?

Let’s take weight loss as an example. You have decided you want to reach a certain dress size will you be 100% compliant until you reach that goal or will you allow yourself ‘treats’ along the way?

Many willpower thinkers believe that there are times when you should go ‘cold-turkey’ as the problem with moderation is that it requires ad hoc decisions which need energy. For example, if every time you are tempted to eat cake you will have to make a decision whether to indulge or not. You expand energy in the process of deliberation, energy you could use for willpower.

The all or nothing approach needs 100% commitment, there are no exceptions. It’s a done deal and non-negotiable. You wont need to wrestle with that decision everyday making life easier.

On the other hand Dr Rankin believes that ‘deprivation in the mother of all failure’ therefore if we are too strict with ourselves we are most likely to weaken.  He prefers the approach of Graded Exposure where willpower is built up n small progressive steps.

  1. Stand in front of the cake shop and look in the window
  2. A few days later walk in to the cake shop but then immediately walk out
  3. A few days later walk in to the cake shop and stay for a little longer but don’t buy anything
  4. A few days later go in to the cake shop and buy 1 small item.

Rankin claims that with each step one develops the ability  to resist temptation when he or she wants to.

“As your confidence develops and you learn what it feel like to exercise self-control, more difficult situations can be confronted.” Rankin

What do you think? Which approach do you prefer to take?


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