What's your toughest management challenge?
It's not your time, your direct reports, your elders, your deacons, your denominational superiors, your budget realities, or the expectations of your toughest critics who attended Catalyst, the Leadership Summit and dislike both John Piper and Rob Bell.
There is a man named Roy Baumeister who is cranking out remarkable work these days. He's likely the world's top experimental social psychologist, and he is almost single-handedly bringing the concept of "will" back to psychology. (He's got a book out now called Willpower that is well worth reading.)
Ever wonder why it's hard to keep New Years' resolutions? One of Baumeister's early experiments was to investigate the nature of willpower. In this experiment, one group of people had to resist the temptation to eat delicious fresh chocolate chip cookies, while another group had to resist eating radishes. Then both groups were given (secretly) insoluble math problems to solve. It turns out that the subjects who had been resisting chocolate chip cookies gave up on trying to solve math problems much more quickly than the subjects who only had to resist eating radishes.
In other words, Baumeister has found, willpower is real, and able to make a difference, but it is a finite commodity. It's a lot like a muscle—if you do as many push-ups as you can and then immediately try to see how much you can bench press, it won't be much. Willpower, like a muscle, can be built up over time. But in the short term it's easily fatigued.
A finite commodity
Baumeister discovered that you have a finite amount of willpower that gets depleted as you use it. He also found that you use the same stock of willpower for all manner of tasks. You don't ...