Otherwise known as “you can do it!” (or “not do it!” as the case may be.) Some time ago I heard a fascinating interview on NPR (full story here) where authors Roy F. Baumeister (a psychologist) and John Tierney (a science writer) discussed their new book Willpower and its premise that willpower is “like a muscle.” Just like any traditional muscle in your body use it more and it will grow stronger, overuse it and it will grow fatigued.
In the interview they use the example of food – put junk food out of sight and you won’t have to continually tap into your willpower resources to resist the temptation. But if you regularly practice small acts of self control you’ll strengthen your ability to resist larger forms of temptation when they crop up.
My first thought after hearing this was that it is such great news for people who want to clean up their finances. It takes huge self discipline to cut spending and increase savings, but I find it so powerful to think that just because this might not have been your strength in the past you can improve simply by working on it. Want to be able to do 25 push ups? Start with one. Want to save $5000 this year? Start by saving $1.