Impulse Control and Willpower

Learn how to manage your own response inhibition. This is how you deal with the cognitive process related to impulses and behavioral responses to stimuli.

Impulse Control
18. July 2024 by Click insider / Human Brain

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Impulse control is an idiosyncratic phenomena and there may be no universal laws that governs it. But as for so much in life, impulse control is heavily influenced health stuff like sleep, diet and exercise, and other things that affect your brain and body.

Inhibitory Control

Inhibitory control and self-control are regulated by prefrontal cortex, caudate nucleus, and subthalamic nucleus, at least that's what the scientist claim now. They might claim something else tomorrow, and there's no reason to memorize this. Some disorders greatly affect inhibitory control, but even in supposedly healthy adults there seems to be a lack of self-control.

Neuropsychological inhibitory control test can be performed to determine your current status, but there's a much easier, fast and free check-up you could do right now:

  • Evaluate your net worth. If you are not financially well off, and you have no valid reason for not being rich, it might just be that your inhibitory controls are dysfunctional.
  • Check your belly fat; Grab your belly with your hands. If there's something to grab, you're fat, and it's your fault. Being fat is a direct result of poor inhibitory control.
  • Do a life check up. If your life sucks, it may be a result of bad inhibitory control. If it's not your fault, and you blame others for the shit in your life, you should know you don't gain from that. Move on, take responsibility.


Willpower = will + power and when related to the human brain these terms becomes dubious. But for the sake of continuation, let's just imagine we all know what willpower means. Willpower is something that you must use and exercise, or it may not work properly. As a replacement of talking yourself down, self-criticism, try not to bring yourself down, be self-aware and don't be so hard on yourself, especially if you procrastinate or fail.

Focus on what you will do. This is a neat hack. Just think about the things you intend to do, those things you really want to do, those things that matter and is aligned with your purpose. Think about those things. Don't do things like chant the things you don't want to do. If you repeat in your head affirmations like: "I won't do X, I won't do X, I won't do X"; Guess what you'll do: X.

The willpower paradox suggest people do things better by focusing less directly on doing them. Implicitly this means direct effort may not be the best way to accomplish your goals. This has been backed up by some research, but there's probably other research debunking it as well. One thing researchers found could change your life was that, instead of the direct pursuit of goals, you just began talking to your self, probably not like a crazy person, but just question things, be curious, that sort of thing. Question things like if you are really interested in the thing, ask "Will I actually do X?" and then determine your willingness to make it happen. If the willingness is there, the rest becomes games play.

Your inner strength is within. This means you do not control outside events. Realize that all you will ever have control over is your own mind. You have no control over other minds, or other things outside of yourself.

The pursuit of external goals is perhaps stupid. Instead, focus on yourself, becoming better at what you do, and let the rewards of the world be as they are.

Willpower Must Be Exercised

Willpower is not a muscle, but like a muscle, it must be exercised. If you don't exercise your willpower, it will weaken, and it will be strengthened by practice. The use-it-or-lose-it dynamics for both willpower and muscles is a semi-truth perhaps; If inactivated for a long enough period it will be greatly reduced, but will they ever completely vanish unless the organism cease to exist?

Is there such a thing as being too strong? What are the drawbacks of extreme mental strength or superhuman physical strength? Let's differentiate between phrasings; There's optimal strength: Ultimate strength; remarkable strength; excellent strength; perfect strength; balanced strength; on the one hand and then there's maximum strength which is the absolute limits of the organism: Exaggerated strength; unreasonable strength; outrageous strength; irrational strength; excessive strength; And finally the neutral unusual strength; severe strength; immense strength. There may even be those odd moments and freak circumstances where being weak is beneficent, but by and large strength is predominantly a desirable attribute. Make optimal strength your exercise target, forget maximal strength. Optimal beats max every time, which begs the question: What's optimal? When your strength does not interfere, but rather supports your other desirable attributes, you're at the optimum. It may be possible to train your mind to forgo breathing and oxygen for a whole hour, producing beautiful side effects such as brain damage and complete obliteration. The point: Reaching maximums may result in undesirable consequences. Don't ever aim for maximal strength just because. Find the balance which works for you. Aim for the idiosyncratic optimum, which will be your peculiar level of awesomeness.

Exercising your willpower. First, remember to train for and target optimums, not maximums. Across the population, most people will probably be far below their optimal strength, both physically and mentally. Few have attained exaggerated levels of strength, often by neglecting the comprehensive costs and impairing other attributes. Integrated individuals aim for balance, variation and moderation. As with most things, you may discover certain details by looking at willpower in isolation, but it's only through a broader perspective you will gain a deeper understanding; Willpower is best seen through a holistic lens.

Mental willpower can be increased by how you live and operate. For instance, willpower may be exercised daily by committing to intermittent fasting on a regular basis. Prolonged absence from calories then becomes a perpetual willpower exercise. Caloric restriction and regular fasting may be a great way to improve discipline and willpower. There are certainly lifestyle diets which will greatly improve mental toughness, prospective longevity, overall wellbeing, levels of energy and a bounty of other goodies to life. However. Your body adjusts to routine; Eventually you might not experience any hunger at all outside your eating windows. Once it's routine, it may cease to be hard. And when hard becomes easy, it won't really exercise your willpower. The solution: Add randomness; Occasional feasts, irregular extended fasts, and your body does not know what to expect. Just keep in mind your overall purpose and don't lose focus on the broader perspective. Do not train your willpower just for the sake of strengthening your willpower. Take the holistic approach. Bravery for the sake of bravery is stupid. Remember, the goal is not to increase your willpower to the maximum. Rather, the optimum approach targets a calibrated willpower, one that supports your purpose and outlook in life. Calibration isn't about finding rythm, there's no safe zone in life; Comfort-seekers get crushed; There's no preservation, no fixedness; The one constant in life is perpetuate change, don't fight it. The human being who has completely subjugated willpower, to the point of maximum control of every emotion, may be able to never experience mental states of anger or sadness, the trade-off being a joyless and flat life. Willpower isn't something to be conquered or crushed. Humans are complex creatures, we're not one dimensional things with simple one-directional goals. Those I-can't-take-it-anymore moments aren't always meant to be overthrown, sometimes you've got to listen to your body, your instincts, your whatever.

Abuse of willpower. You may use your willpower to work extra hours, control calorie-intake, sleep less, push through extra reps in the gym, make more money, while neglecting other important things. Your body, your brain, your mind, your strength, your willpower, your purpose in life and all those things are one team. Don't act like they aren't. Then there's the extended self; Your friends (real ones), your family, your local community and even your country. Avoid being the leech. Align yourself such that you're a contributor and a creator of value for every other component in this compound. Willpower shines when it's beautifully optimized for the things that really matters. Determination, perseverance and willpower could make you financially rich, it could give you a great body, good health in old age, and other seductive achievements. But the true beauty of willpower emerges when it's delightfully aligned with your extended self. You are not an island, and neither is your willpower. These are the things one must understand to fully experience the true joy of life-adapted willpower.

Willpower and greed. Mental toughness can indeed be leveraged for self-serving purposes. For those lacking a moral compass or deficient in wisdom, here's a hidden fact: Greed has a built-in punishment mechanism. Greed is never good, regardless of perspective, and counterintuitively greed is especially bad from a selfish perspective. Those rapacious individuals hungry for status and admiration, gaining achievements from pure greed, might arouse nothing but resentment in others and grief and misery in one self. Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered. If your denominator purpose in life equates to the base of what's-in-it-for-me, expect nothing less than mutilation, torture and annihilation.

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