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Will Power Tank’ Needs Replenishment

Aired 1/25/12 on KPBS News.

New social research unveiled in San Diego this week shows there are ways to manage will power that give us a better chance to keep New Year's resolutions.

If you're like most adults, your New Year's resolutions are starting to crumble right about now. But scientists say your lack of willpower's not entirely to blame.

Picture your willpower as a gas tank-the more you use it to resist temptation, the emptier it gets and less effective it becomes. You must replenish your willpower reserve for it to work. But how?

The answer may be found in new research presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference this week in San Diego.

Self-control researcher Roy Baumeister of Florida State University said for best results, ration your willpower.

"For New Year's resolutions, we say do them one at a time. Manage it like a limited resource."

Baumeister says you can replenish willpower by "giving in" to little desires, like sleeping in.

Willpower alone is not the key to resisting temptations.

Rather it's how and when you use your resolve that matters most.

Baumeister compared willpower to exercise.

"Self control seems to work like a muscle. When you use it, it gets tired."

His advice to keeping your resolutions is to exert your will power one task at a time; for example, first stick to a new diet and then try an exercise program.

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