Nice report on research from Scientific American: Setting your mind on a goal may be counterproductive. Instead think of the future as an open question. They split people into two groups for a series of experiments. One group was primed for willpower (eg by having to write out the phrase “I will” multiple times); the other for curiosity (eg writing “Will I?”). The groups primed for curiosity went on to significantly outperform the wilful group. There’s a lesson there for control freaks of all stripes. As the post says
It indicates that those with questioning minds were more intrinsically motivated to change. They were looking for a positive inspiration from within rather than attempting to hold themselves to a rigid standard. Those asserting will lacked this internal inspiration which explains in part their weak commitment to future change. Put in terms of addiction recovery and self-improvement in general, those who were asserting their willpower were in effect closing their minds and narrowing their view of their future.
Hat tip: Tweet from Bruce Lewin