Do you ever get the feeling sometimes that you just don’t want to make a decision? Have you ever noticed for example that you tend to have more willpower and focus in the mornings than you do in the afternoons? This is now scientifically proven and has huge implications for the way we learn.

A few of the studies
In a now famous study, a group of people were asked to sit in a room. They had not eaten for the whole morning. In front of them was a bowl of radishes and a bowl of cookies. Half the group was given radishes to eat and could not eat the cookies and half the group was given cookies to eat. 15 minutes later both groups of people were asked to do a puzzle. The puzzle was, in fact, impossible to complete. The group who had eaten the cookies and therefore had not used up their willpower, kept trying to do the puzzle and didn’t lose patience. The group that had used up their willpower resisting eating the cookies, lost their patience very quickly, with many of them giving up trying to do the puzzle.

Willpower, which drives self-control is not an infinite thing and slowly through the day, we use it up. In other studies, for example, people admitted that they made more irrational decisions as the day went on, they tended to be more impulsive and this is because as the day goes on, our willpower is depleting. This has very serious implications for certain jobs, for example, judges giving parole to prison victims gave 50% of applicant’s parole in the morning sessions but by the end of the day, this had dropped to nearly 0%.

The good news
The good news is that firstly our pool of willpower can be increased. For example, people who were put on a programme of exercise found that they had more increased willpower for all other aspects of their lives. A simple exercise where people were asked to stand up straight and not slouch each time they noticed they were sitting badly, found their willpower also increased. These studies have 2 implications. Firstly we can increase our willpower by doing certain things, often quite simple things, and secondly, willpower is transferable. So, you don’t have the willpower for one thing but not the other, rather you have one finite pool of willpower that you can use during the day for different things.
The other good news is that your willpower can be restored. So for example, just taking 5-10 minutes of the day out from work and doing mindfulness exercises where people sat and focused on their day and what they wanted to achieve, led to restored levels of willpower. Taking a short nap in the day, tends to also lead to restored levels of willpower too. A complete break from work, for example, going out for a walk or getting outside can also help.

Building willpower
Building willpower actually takes willpower, so you need to get the balance right. For example, in the studies around exercise, people had to use willpower to start exercising. However, after a while, doing regular exercise helped to build their willpower and so the long term result was they actually had more willpower for other things.
Learning a language requires willpower.
You need to get lots of language input by continually listening to the language, you need to read as much as you can, make use of opportunities to practice speaking and of course study grammar and vocabulary. Along with learning a musical instrument, I would say it is one of the hardest things to do and many people fail, simply because they don’t have the willpower and self-discipline that is required.

Moving UP will provide you with concrete strategies that you can work with as well as the necessary support to actually build up your learning habits, to build your willpower and self-discipline to master learning a new language.

Do you want to learn more?
I recommend the work of Kelly McConigal. Watch one of her interesting videos on YouTube: