Reserve             Results           Satisfaction             Reserve

    ↓       causes         ↓     causes         ↓          causes       ↓          On downward

    ↑       causes        ↑     causes         ↑          causes        ↑          Up, stabilize

Explanation of diagram:  On the first line of arrows above, if the reserves are down, one's results will go down, which would then lead to satisfaction going down, which causes one's emotional willpower reserve to go down further (from discouragement and the lack of reinforcement).   Note that there is a "downward spiral".  On the second line, the arrows and the effects go the opposite way and lead into an "upward spiral".   It is vital to intervene as early as possible to stop the negative spiral and to initiate the positve spiral - and that is what we intend to have you do, after digesting the discussion and using the strategies.

Follow these principles and practices or you'll not be able to control and run your life at the level you would like to live.

Incidentally!  When your willpower reserve is down, you are thinking and choice impaired, operating at the level of a legally drunk driver.  Never, never make any decision at that level of impairment, much less an important one!!!!!! 

Instead, plan a way around having to exert willpower and use strategies to increase it.  (See What Increases Or Reduces Your Willpower Reserve!)

The potential for your life:   Your choices can be driven by long term goals, not panic or the need for instant gratification (a form of panic)

Note that the concept of a willpower reserve is the equivalent concept of the balance you have in The Emotional Bank Account .  

Note that you are simply human and must operate within the limits of being a human

Accordingly, when you have conflicting needs, your human mechanical system will prevail.  You can't beat it!  It is a mechanical reality.  (But you can utilize the system within its limits in such a way as to dramatically reap more from life.)

When you don't have the 'emotional energy', you do not have power and you'll experience a lack of self-control, since the 'other side' will win if you have little power.  The 'other side' is the fight-flight response (or the lesser version: "I'll just avoid doing what is uncomfortable or takes effort").  In the fight-flight mode, energy is diverted to handle the supposed threat - it is diverted to the limbs, heart, pumping sugar for energy to run/fight and away from the higher brain and other functions not as vital for survival.  So, you have a surge of energy on one side and less on the other side - so, guess what!  You lose!  (It takes energy to do self control, but there's not enough in that case.  The mechanical reality is that we have to decrease the energy on the negative side and increase the energy on the positive side.  That is the intention of the discussions that follow!  

So, you need to monitor your reserve and to maintain that reserve for when it is needed (and not fritter it away on "faux fears" and other drains).

See, below, what those things are that increase or decrease your willpower reserve - and use them!!!!


Rate your willpower on a scale of from 1-10 at this moment.  If you score at 7 or below, you are not being in control of your life.  You do not have enough reserves (or emotional bank account balance) to access and use to get what you want.  When that is the case, you'll find yourself doing things that further deplete you, like various addictive behaviors, overeating, overdrinking, overprocrastinating, etc..

Like all processes that we want to improve, we must first look and see (aka notice) and bring to awareness where we are at, so that we can then choose to decide if we need to adjust things.  Otherwise, we go randomly, out of control, through life, without exercising any will or power over it.

Your perspective, and your ability to manage your power, can be greatly enhanced by charting your "willpower reserve" (emotional power reserve).  How strong are you at various times of the day and how was your reserve impacted and by what.


Notice where you are violating the rules about what increases reserves or engaging in what reduces reserves.  If you let yourself go, without adjusting and doing the right thing, your confidence, and thus your reserves, will go down, in a vicious spiral.  It is essential that you be aware of your reserve "balances" in your account and that you not allow wide variances.  (See Homeostasis, instead of being "off balance".)

This section has been moved for separate, easier reference:   What Increases Or Reduces Your Willpower Reserve.   Honor This!


We have evolved to be able to meet specific challenges - or we would not have survived.  So self-control (the ability to control oneself sufficiently to meet a challenge) has evolved as an 'instinct' that we have in us.   (Instinct = An inborn pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species, normally accompanied by a motivation pattern that impels one in that direction.)

Self control requires energy.  A stressed body diverts energy away from long term needs (such as digestion).  When we have a constant stream of emergencies we suffer not only in the moment but also in having our body not functioning properly, so it breaks down or fails to operate well.  It also shuts down the "frontal lobe" (PFC = Prefrontal Cortex) and our 'thinking' becomes disjointed, incoherent, even chaotic, to the point we are barely able to think straight when needed - and we try to think our way out of it when our brain is not capable of it!  Then we criticize ourselves for our "weakness", when it is just normal functioning! 

Not good!

If we are operating in fear, this is what will happen:

Threat      -->       High alert      -->        Impulsive action will happen
                                           (as the PFC and its control system is shut down)

Chronic self control attempts have you always being on alert, tensing to be ready to meet the emergency, ready to pounce - and then it diverts resources also, including reducing the efficiency of the immune system and all of the body/mind.  (Of course, chronic self control and being constantly on alert are perfect examples of being under stress.)


You can't master it when your mechanics are against you. 

To resolve this, we have to break the cycle (down-spiral, malfunctioning process).  The principle behind this is discussed in The Causal Chain For Behaviors

As humans, we need time to recover from the exertion of self-control.  We need to burn off the stress chemicals and to rejuvenate.  We need, therefore, to choose our battles wisely, to choose when to try to control and when not to.  Constant contests deplete us totally. 

We need to "break the chain", which we do by

1.  Positive breakin

    Pausing and breathing deeply =  a time of repair and healing, restorations

2.  Harmful breaking

    Zoning out (tv, wine or a big meal) harms. 

Relaxation physically give pure physical and mental rest, while occupying yourself with mindnumbing activities diminishes your ability to operate - and you're operating over an unresolved stress and a malfunctioning of your systems.  (Just lie down on floor, legs on a pillow, close eyes, take a few deep breaths, squeeze or contract tight areas then let them go, especially in forehead, jaw, eyes, cheekcs, stretch mouth wide open.)

The idea is to use the essential strategy to make the body work properly again:  Regain homeostasis.


Believing you are fatigued, don't: sign comes too early, overprotective monitor in the brain to stop us from going further,   exhaustion often is a figment of our imagination (sign systm)  fatigue is a sensation or emotion not a physical reality)
we often 'feel' more depleted of will power (energy) than we actually are.

No, you are not "too tired" to exert self control at the first feeling of fatigue.  It is often not a real signal, but you'll have to learn what the actual points are, as part of the equivalent of emotional intelligence, but this might be called "physicality intelligence.   

Then you'll know when to respond to the feeling as a legitimate indicator, returning yourself to homeostasis by, say, napping for 20 minutes.  In the other case, you might stretch or do something to ignite physical energy. 

So, this is what you have to have in mind:

True limit                                                   __________________

First signal                                                 __________________
(just consider the signal, don't take as accurate, and then choose how to respond, with your higher brain not your impulse.)

Know to challenge yourself!  (But not harm yourself.)

Our beliefs on what we are capable of may determine when we give up or soldier on.

So, we may feel depleted when we are not actually depleted.

That is what is so with champion athletes, but they know their bodies very consciously and precisely.  The same would pay off for you.  

Read Reading Body Signals Accurately.


Consider using this chart format.  

Do for a minimum of one week.

My Willpower Reserve Level

Level  Time:  6   7   8   9  10  11  12  1  2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11   12   1

Log/comments:  (What do I identify as the cause of an increase or a decrease?  See also the list of what increases or decreases the reserves.  Note also that certain times of the day you'll have different reserves, which would suggest when you should or should not do things that require "power".)

Being aware of how things fluctuate and what might cause that is all part of becoming an effective manager of your willpower reserve (and you overall "life power").

Phrases in quotes are from the book The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal, which is one of the most highly recommended and necessary books for good life management.


If you are following one of the programs or "books", go back to where you were and do the next thing.

If you are exploring at this time, read the articles of interest in the side bar and/or peruse the body of this article to find articles to link into.

The Emotional Bank
  Account - Hard to make
  withdrawals without
  deposits and a balance.

Psych Energy And Power - This is a key component of the willpower reserve and getting anything done. It must be maintained.

What Increases Or Reduces Your Willpower Reserve (and thus you willpower available to use in the moment!)

The Causal Chain For Behaviors
Conflicting needs - You can't beat the mechanics of it!
Reading Body Signals Accurately

Homeostasis - Essential for operating well in life!!  


See Contents/Links: Habits, Willpower, Discipline, Self-control

Behavior Management Contents/Links