In 2007 Gaillot and other sciencists from Florida state University and Schmeichel from Texas A&M University carried out an experiment with 101 people. The subjects had to maintain their attention on a video 6 minutes long trying to avoid the words that were appearing in the corner of the screen as a distraction. Our brain is designed to detect subtle changes in the environment automatically, so trying to supress that instinct requires a high level of will power. Avoiding to look at the words was an exhausting excercise: After the experiment the average glucose level in the blood of the participants dropped from 107 to 101 and their performance in the next exercise dropped even more.
Selfcontrol consumes a lot of energy and that energy comes from the glucose, a limited resource in our body. Ultimately our willpower gives up and our focus is diverted. It's unbearable, it's biological. With a balanced diet, eating at least five times a day we can stretch our selfcontrol, but just up to a point. We all have experienced the exhaustion at the end of a day in which we had to make a lot of important decisions. In that moment we were using our energy reserves.
The most important changes imply learning, change of habits and change of behaviors.
Changing the way we are is very difficult and leaving it up to just will power will reduce our chances to succeed. Will power is a limited resource as we have seen before and that's why often diets fail, we cannot learn a new language or we keep on smoking.
Does it mean that change is not possible? Of course not. Every day we meet people who learn a new language, start jogging, cut a bad habit or lowered their stress level. The adaptation's capacity of the human being is fantastic, it has lead us to spread over the planet and survive in hostile environments like deserts, the polar circle or even the space.
The key to a lasting change: People who change don't use just their will power. They change their environment too. If you are everyday in the same place, doing the same things with the same people it's really difficult to change. If you want to learn English, you have to go to England and live with an English family. If you want to lose weight, your are more likely to achieve it if you leave home and go to a clinic where they give you exactly what you have to eat and they schedule group sport. If you want to learn, go to the university. Most of the times when you have experienced a big change in your life, your environment had changed. In those moments you had people around walking with you towards the same goal, you had a mentor, psychologist, teacher or relative who has guided your steps. You were in other place. You had leave behind your comfort zone.
Want to change? Change your environment.