Can you run out of willpower? | The Ugly Truth and How to Solve it

The concept of willpower has intrigued a lot of people throughout the ages. I can’t blame them for their interest in what willpower is simply because willpower is a common concept among people who are into self-improvement. We use willpower when we want to pass our exams, work on ourselves, make business, read a book, and many more. Thus, this article would talk about if you can run out of willpower.

We can run out of willpower because willpower or self-control is our ability to reject things that are bad for us and do things that are good for us, which requires a lot of energy. Since we can run out of energy, we can also run out of willpower. Thus, it is a finite resource.

We are going to discuss this in more detail in the article. I also want to make you take note of the reason why it requires a lot of energy which we will discuss later. We are going to also talk about what happens when you run out of willpower.

Can willpower be depleted?

Willpower can be depleted because it is very energy-consuming. When we use our willpower to prevent urges and impulses, we use a lot of logical reasoning and thinking. This, in turn, depletes our willpower because willpower is a finite resource.

However, just because willpower is a finite resource doesn’t mean that we can’t do something to strengthen or conserve it.

But first, let me introduce to you why willpower is very energy-consuming and why is it tied to energy. That way, we can easily understand it as a resource that can be depleted.

Willpower is energy-consuming because it actually comes from a certain part of our brain which is the prefrontal cortex. Our prefrontal cortex is the logical and reasoning part of our brain.

If you take a look at willpower closely, we can see that we use our willpower to fight our urges, and we fight our urges by using our logical thinking.

For example, willpower is being used if you want to save money instead of buying things that you like to buy. When you try to use your willpower on these events, you can easily see how you use willpower.

You would say things like “I don’t want to buy these because I want to save money.” or “I am saving money because I want to buy something else that’s more important.”

When we try to use our willpower, we use our logical thinking and reasoning which comes from the prefrontal cortex.

Remember this, fewer energy levels means less energy to do logical thinking. This leads to less willpower which depletes it.

That’s the main reason why willpower can be depleted. We use it together with our energy levels.

To give you more perspective on the importance of our energy to willpower, remember that it is widely known even by the PNAS(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) that the brain is only 2% of our body weight, but it accounts for 20% of our energy use.

What more do you think if we are constantly using our logical thinking. Our brain would use much more willpower.

That’s why you can also see some people who have less willpower when they’re hungry. It’s a matter of energy levels.

But the most common reason why willpower is being depleted is that people correlate willpower as a muscle. We will check on that in the next section.

What happens when you run out of willpower?

When you run out of willpower, you would act depending on your emotions rather than your logical thinking and reasoning. The reason for this is because we use willpower to logically tell which is right or wrong. Without willpower, we would just act based on emotions.

Now, let’s discuss why people generally correlate willpower with our muscles when talking about willpower as a finite resource.

After that, we will link it to what happens when we run out of willpower.

Willpower is like a muscle because it is finite. What I mean by this is that our willpower can also get tired much like our muscles.

It’s like the more we do crunches, the more tired the muscle is, the weaker it gets.

That’s the same for willpower. The more willpower you use, the more you become tired, the less willpower you’ll have.

This has been seen by the famous chocolate and radish experiment.

The Chocolate and Radish Experiment was created by Princeton University Psychologist named Dr. Roy Baumeister. In essence, it is an experiment conducted to demonstrate that willpower of self-control may be drained.

To explain, the experiment is when they gave a series of participants some puzzle to do. After solving one puzzle, one group got chocolates, and the other got a plate of radish.

As you can easily tell, a lot more people who got chocolate agreed to take another puzzle. The people who are in the radish group got really annoyed and didn’t want to participate in the experiment anymore.

That’s the basic concept. The people who got the chocolate used less willpower to continue the experiment because they aren’t using their willpower to combat their cravings for chocolates anymore.

On the other hand, the people in the radish group are still using their willpower because they still aren’t getting their chocolate.

That’s the basic concept of willpower as a muscle. It basically gets weaker the more you use it.

But the surprise here is that the people on the radish group also ran out of willpower. Thus, we can see what happens when we run out of willpower.

People who have lost their willpower started to curse things or belittle the experiment. They started to hate everyone that is part of the experiment.

Basically, they lost their logical reasoning.

When we socialize with people, one key thing is to act within logic or the social norms. But people who lack willpower started to lose this logical reasoning. Thus, they act poorly in front of other people.

So the point is, they lost their social skills leading to poor or bad social skills.

By the way, if you’re interested, I have an article discussing how to have good social skills. As a public speaker and a lecturer, I learned a lot about public speaking. Thus, I made a guide with 25 tips in order for you to get better at it. Here’s the link if you’re interested: How to Improve Your Social Skills and Confidence

The reason for this is because willpower is used to have logical or rational thinking. We use willpower so that we can act depending on what society or we think is good.

To know what is good, we use our logic and thus, willpower.

Furthermore, people who lack willpower start to act on their emotional side rather than logical ones.

A perfect example is we usually have low willpower at night. That’s why it is common for people to watch TV while sitting on the couch eating popcorn at night rather than working on a business. That includes me.

The reason why we usually have lower willpower at night is that we’ve used our willpower throughout the day. So it is normal to have low willpower at night. It is not your fault.

So my point here is this.

People who run out of willpower tend to stop acting based on their logical and rational thinking. Rather, they act based on their emotions. This usually happens when people snap out or forget to use their social skills based on the norms. Furthermore, lacking willpower means we are more prone to temptations and urges.

Is there a limit to willpower?

There is a limit to willpower for the reason that willpower uses a lot of energy because of its relationship with rational thinking. This basically means that willpower is like a muscle that gets tired the more you use it. But it doesn’t mean that we can’t do something to increase our willpower.

As a conclusion for this article, I hope you already understand why willpower is a limited resource.

The simple reason is that it is greatly tied to rational and logical thinking which requires a lot of energy.

Our brain uses 20% of our energy despite being only 2% of our body weight. Now, add the energy consumed when we think rationally and you would understand that willpower or self-control saps a lot of our energy.

But that doesn’t mean that our willpower is limited to what it is right now.

While there is a limit to our willpower and energy, we can do things to conserve or to make our willpower stronger.

I will explain a basic concept and leave with a video for you to want to understand further.

But here, I will give the basics.

There are two ways in which you can have more willpower. While there is a limit, that doesn’t mean that the limit can’t be changed.

  1. Increase your willpower level
  2. Conserve your willpower

It seems simple because it is really simple. There is no need to overcomplicate. Either you increase your willpower level, or you can conserve to use it on important activities.

Now, you have 2 choices, of course, you can choose both.

One is to watch the video here in which I summarized the book willpower instinct, it is a good book if we’re talking about increasing our willpower so you’ll appreciate a video summary that I’ve made.

The second is to read the article linked here as I’ve explained the concept of how self-control is being depleted. Here is the link: How is self-control depleted?

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So, here are the things I love.


If you want to learn things for free, I recommend watching my YouTube Channel. Click the Button Below to go straight into my Channel. 🙂

Okay, let me first explain my Channel.

I believe that I really can’t explain everything too well on my blog. That’s why I created a YouTube Channel so I can easily explain a lot of things. Plus, I believe that Video Sharing is the future.

Recommended Books

The next thing is books. Books are, for me, one of the cheapest ways to get invaluable information. We can learn personal development, finance, career, relationships, and many more from books.

Here, I will be listing my favorite books in different categories.

  1. For Beginners7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – Personal development has a lot of concepts and ideas to learn. Thus it can be really hard for beginners to know where to start. Thus, I recommend this book since all the basic concepts of personal development are here(except finance, check what I recommended for that)
  2. ProductivityThe One Thing by Gary Keller – This book teaches us the power of focusing on one thing which is the ultimate source of productivity. The concepts taught are what I am using to constantly publish YouTube videos while maintaining this website.
  3. Busy?Make Time by Jack Knapp – This book teaches us how to make time for the things we love. The concept is really simple but I think that makes it a book worth reading.
  4. HealthLifespan by Dr.Sinclair – This Book teaches about the latest scientific research on lifespan. In his book, he has shared numerous things he is doing to slow down his aging process. This can be as easy as eating less which he recommends.
  5. FinanceThe Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason – Perhaps one of the first books I’ve read about Finance, this book for me is the best if we are talking about learning basic finance such as basic saving and investing. The concepts are very simple but effective.


Take this advice as a grain of salt.

I don’t recommend buying Audiobooks one by one. I mean, audiobooks can be quickly finished by listening while working out or doing some mindless tasks.

So here is to save you some money. Just go for a monthly subscription to Audible. I believe that you will save a lot of money with that plus, they usually give freebies to anyone starting.

My Audiobook Recommendation will always be the same as my book recommendations, but I personally like The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. I like how she is so casual while reading her book.

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