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A Reflection on The Willpower Challenge

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My willpower challenge is, I want to get out of my comfort zone. Staying in my comfort zone has deprived me of many opportunities that could have given me a good experience. So, I want to change that. I want to be able to have the willpower to say yes when an opportunity arises. To motivate myself and get excited about my willpower challenge I have made a list of opportunities that are out of my comfort zone. The part of the brain I am using is the prefrontal cortex, which is located right behind the forehead. The prefrontal cortex is divided into three regions: The, I Will, I Won’t, and I Want. I Will is located on the left side of the brain. The I Won’t is located on the right side of the brain. The I Want is located in the middle region of the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain I will be using to complete my willpower challenge. Kelly McGonigal states that the I Want part of the brain is responsible for “Keeping track of your goals and desires, it motivates you to take action and resist temptation even when your brain is screaming, “Eat that! Drink that! Smoke that! Buy that!”. Or in my case, my brain will scream “Don’t take the chance!” I want to be able to resist that temptation and take a chance. I have never tried this challenge before, it has crossed my mind a few times but I never took action until now. Since I have never attempted this challenge I cannot fully say what challenges I will face, but I can predict them. I think the most difficult part of changing this behavior is the unhealthy habit I use to get out of situations that involve getting me out of my comfort zone. This habit is excuses, my popular excuse is telling myself that I have a school project to work on. I am not lying, I end up doing the project, however, the project is not due for another three weeks. I have this compulsion to put school ahead of everything else, including my personal life and most likely my willpower challenge.

I will know I have successfully completed my willpower challenge when I am able to cook two meals per week for my family. Cooking for people is the top thing I am most uncomfortable with. If somebody puts ingredients in front of me I immediately tense up and think about how I can make a colossal mess with these ingredients. I want to be able to get past the feeling of unease and just cook a meal. To help me achieve my willpower challenge I will be applying strategies and concepts I have learned in psychology class. I will be using Meditation as one of my strategies to help me get through stressful situations. Moral Licensing is a concept that I have been susceptible to. Meaning that when I do something good I give myself permission to cheat on my willpower challenge. I make decision after decision on a daily basis. Making all those decisions can exhaust the brain.When I am tired the last thing I want to do is make even more complicated decisions. When I fail at something I get stressed and feel extremely guilty. The guilt eats at me, and then I do the exact same mistake again. This is called the What-the- Hell Effect, the good news is there is a way to break out of this cycle.

Meditation has become a very popular strategy for stress relief. It is the practice of deep breathing. Meditation helps you to become aware of your body, mind, and feelings. A research study compared two groups of people, group one was made of experienced meditators or practiced meditation. Group two was made up of people that did not practice meditation. Every participant got a MPRAGE. Through the MPRAGE processing, they found that group one, who made a “regular practice of meditation had increased thickness in the subsect the cortical regions related to somatosensory, auditory, visual and interceptive processing. Meaning that they are actually slowing down age related thinning of the frontal cortex” (Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness 2005). Group one participants that were between forty and fifty years old had the prefrontal cortex thickness of a twenty to thirty year old. The meditation experiment also proved that the regular practice of meditation will gradually help you to become more aware of your body and become more successful in dealing with stressful situations. Since I have anxiety and getting out of my comfort zone is a very stressful situation. I will practice meditation every morning before I go to school. Mediation will help me keep a clear and calm mind throughout the day. So when an opportunity arises for me to get out of my comfort zone, I will not panic and make an excuse.

Some people say that it is okay to cheat once in a while, cheating once in a while will not kill you. True, it may not, but it creates unhealthy habits and behaviors. When people have done a good deed it will make them feel good, their self-esteem is boosted and they feel really good about themselves. However, people could use this good deed to do something bad, according to psychologist this is called Moral Licensing. In my case, staying in my comfort zone is the moral licensing I give myself when I think I took enough opportunities in a week or a weekend that got me out of my comfort zone. Two psychologists Monin and Miller were testing the theory on stereotypes and decision making. Students were given two sets of statements, their job was to state if they agreed or disagreed with these statements. One survey set stated that “Most women are not really smart and most women are better suited to stay home and look after children.” The students rejected these sexist statements. They were given another survey that stated, some women are not really smart and some women are better suited to stay home and look after children. All the students were all neutral on the matter. Then, they were asked to make a hypothetical decision regarding a hiring situation, both interviewed male and female candidates. You would think that the students would not be sexist when making a decision after rejecting the very first survey. Turns out, the students who strongly disagreed with the sexist survey were more likely to hire a man then a woman. This shows that “the students who rejected the sexist statement felt they had stablished their moral credentials, proving that they were not sexist but left them vulnerable to moral licensing”. Meaning that they let themselves off the hook, saying “you showed that you are not sexist, they would not notice if you hired male candidates, as long as you interview the women giving them a fair chance. When I have taken the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, and another opportunity arises. There are times when I will say to myself, “You did enough for today, treat yourself and just stay in your comfort zone for the rest of the day.” However, this type of thinking will is more harmful than helpful. Allowing myself to think that my reward for getting out of my comfort zone is staying in my comfort zone, will make me forget what my real goal is. I keep a number of how many times I have gotten out of my comfort zone during the week. I find when I do this I am basically giving myself permission to avoid any other opportunities to get out of my comfort zone. I need to stop thinking like that, I need to remember why I am trying to get out of my comfort zone and how every opportunity gets me even closer to completing my willpower challenge. By remembering this it will change how I look at my so called reward of staying in my comfort zone. Hoping that eventually, I will see the comfort zone as a threat rather than an asset.

Your muscles are not the only thing that gets exhausted, the brain does too! Decision fatigue is when your mind becomes tired after making so many decision. You can relate it to exercising, your body becomes so tired after a period of time that you just cannot make that last push up. The New York Times posted an interesting article about a judge’s dilemma. Showing the effects of decision fatigue related to parole decisions. There were four men being sentenced that day, however, only two out of the four men were granted parole. The two men who were granted parole saw the judge at 8:50am and the other man saw the judge at 1:27pm. The other two men were not granted parole, saw the judge at 3:10pm and the other man saw the judge at 4:25pm. Research shows that “70% of prisoners who see the judge in the morning are more likely to be granted parole, than those who see the judge later in the day”. The judge had to make some pretty big decisions throughout the day. Decision fatigue seemed to set in later in the day between 3:10pm and 4:25pm. The judge was mentally exhausted and decided not to make any big decisions. He decided to go the safe route and gave the last two prisoners no parole. This applies to my challenge because I am a hairstylist student, every day I have to help make decisions for my clients. I have to take into account my clients hair type, porosity, density, texture, wave pattern, elasticity, length, and much more, to determine if the look my client is looking for is achievable. It may not sound like a lot, however when you have to do this every day it gets really exhausting. When I get to the last client of the day, I am so tempted to take short cuts to make his/her appointment go faster so I can go home. When I get home, completing my willpower challenge is the last thing I am thinking of. I just want to stay home and surf the internet, watch Netflix, or have a long nap. So from the Judges Dilemma research and comparing it to my own life. I learned that I should be trying to complete my willpower challenge on the weekend when I do not have to make a lot of decisions. That way my brain will not be exhausted and I will have my willpower challenge as my top priority.

According to Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman, “The What-the-hell effect is a cycle of indulgences, regret, and greater indulgences” (Kelly McGonigal 104). When we feel stressed, guilty, and ashamed, we go back to the things that make us feel guilty and ashamed. Because our mind is telling us that those things will make us feel better. The Willpower Instinct wrote about a research project regarding a Psychologist and addiction researchers from the University of New York and University of Pittsburg conducted a study made up of 144 participants. The participants were given a tracker, to track how much alcohol they consumed in a day. They found out that the people who indulged way too much alcohol did not feel great the next morning. They had nausea, fatigue, headaches. Along with guilt and shame, you would think that the participants would learn from the consequences and not do it again. However, that was not the case, the guilt actually promoted them to go back to drinking. Because for them to deal with the guilt drinking was the only thing that made them feel better. I have discovered that I am a very self-critical person. When I avoid my willpower challenge I feel really guilty and beat myself up about it. I will constantly think about the situation and bring out the comfort food to help with my guilt, and for the record, it does not help. However, there is a way to break this unhealthy cycle, which is self-forgiveness. At first, when I read this I thought, forgiving myself will just give me permission to stay in my comfort zone again if the opportunity arises for me to get out of my comfort zone. I learned that self-forgiveness has the opposite effect. “Self-criticism is associated with less motivation, and worse self-control, and is the biggest pinpoint in depression, which drains the I Will and I Want power. Self-motivation and self-forgiveness when you are stressed or fail at something is associated with more motivation and better self-control”. I need to accept that I will fail at my willpower challenge at times, I am not perfect. Everybody has relapses. But when you fall you do not just sit on the ground and yell at yourself for falling, you get back up and try again. I need to be kind to myself and forgive myself for the mistake I made, and tell myself that I will do better next time.

In conclusion, I want to get out of my comfort zone. I may suffer with anxiety, but I do not think that should prevent me from trying something new. I know I will have successfully completed my willpower challenge when I can cook two meals per week for my family. Cooking for people is one of the biggest challenges I face, so I want to overcome that fear. I will be using concepts I have learned in psychology to assist me in my willpower challenge. I will use the strategy of meditation to help me keep calm in situations that will get me out of my comfort zone. I find that I keep track of how many times I have gotten out of my comfort zone, not realizing it was making me succumb to moral licensing. I learned that I should not focus on the tally mark, but focus on how the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone will benefit me and my willpower challenge. Making so many decisions can be mentally exhausting, especially since I am a hairdresser in training. No wonder I am so tired after an 8-hour day. Realizing that I am unlikely to complete my willpower challenge during the week, I have decided to work on my willpower challenge during the weekends. As a perfectionist, accepting that I am imperfect can be really hard. So when I do make mistakes I will feel extremely guilty and beat myself up about it. Then my guilt will drive me back to make the same mistake. I have learned that self-critism will actually lead me to failure and less self-control. I need to learn to forgive myself and accept the fact that I am human and I am going to fail at times. As long as I get back up and try again and again, I know I will successfully complete my willpower challenge.


  • Lazar Sara, Kerr, Catherine E, Wasserman, Rachel H, Gray Jeremy R, Greve Douglas N, Treadway, Michael T., McGarvey, Mettae,Quinn, Brian T. Dusek, Jeffery A.; Benson, Herbert Rauch, Scott L, Moore Christopher I, Fischl, Bruced , “Mediation Experience is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness” Volume 16 Issue 17, September 19th, 2005, page number 1895 paragraph 5, NeuroReport,
  • McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. Avery, 2012. Electronic print
  • Tierney, John. “Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Aug. 2011,

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A Reflection On The Willpower Challenge. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from
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