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What Is Willpower?

… and how do we make it?

Recent studies have shown that when people with ADHD are faced with a task, the odds of it getting done are in the balance and the scales are adjusted by brain chemistry.

If the task to be done is of interest to us, the world considers that interest to be thoughts, excitement, emotions.

And that’s true. But what are those thoughts, that excitement, those emotions?

Are they ethereal wisps of cognition?

Sounds like magic

Yes, it does. The brain works in mysterious ways.

Or at least, it used to work in mysterious ways. We now know so much more about it.

Thoughts and emotions are chemical changes and interactions that we experience in the brain.

It’s like a giant laboratory

Your brain is capable of synthesizing, using, and experiencing many different chemicals. And those processes are what we use for thought.

Think about that for a moment, in order to read these words, your brain is making a chemical soup and then testing it against other chemicals and processing it through synapses and routing it through pathways to cause reactions.

I control the words, but you react in your own unique way.

When I write

My brain is attempting to make your brain do certain things in order for me to share my thoughts and feelings with you. I’m attempting to mimic my chemistry experiments in your mind.

But, your mind is not my mind and so some of you will not be interested in what I am saying.

I’m not offended; it isn’t that you are reacting negatively toward me or my writing, it’s that you aren’t wired to react like I do.

Now back to that task

If the task at hand causes the right chemical reactions in our brains, it has a good chance of getting done.

But if the chemical reactions it causes are negative, uncomfortable, or even painful, we’re going to try to fix that as soon as possible.

And the quickest fix is to think about something else. Distraction much?

Two kinds of willpower

When we are interested in doing something, we stick to it like we are in a trance. That’s one kind of will power.

But when we are unable to conjure up a natural interest, we need another option.

And is there one?

Of course. We can force ourselves to stay on task and do the thing that upsets the chemistry of our brain, and attempt to endure that negative chemistry.

However, the brain is at the top of the hierarchy of our body’s systems. And when it suffers so do our bodies.

Prolonged exposure to brain chemistry that causes discomfort and pain is not healthy.

So the deal is?

We have to constantly be in search of a balance between enforced focus and acceptable levels of distraction.

And always remember that the more we attempt to enforce focus, the more stress we are under.

And stress exacerbates our symptoms.

So the more you contradict your natural ADHD tendencies, the more you’re going to have to deal with the rebound into the very real, very chemically induced land of ADHD.

What Is Willpower?

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2018). What Is Willpower?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from


Last updated: 4 Dec 2018
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