willpower + happiness

February 14, 2012

grand rounds
i am required to attend endocrinology grand rounds every monday at 5 pm.

this doesn’t sound so bad, but it’s not pediatric endocrine grand rounds, and so sometimes the topics aren’t so relevant [osteoporosis treatments for octogenarians, for example]. also, it’s held right after our weekly departmental meeting which is often upwards of 3 hours in length.

still, i have to sign in and make an appearance, because it’s a fellowship requirement. but i often struggle with staying focused and as a result get absolutely nothing out of some sessions. i fidget, check email on my phone, doze off [not routinely and not on purpose, but it does happen!] and zone out completely. my body is in the auditorium, but my mind is just not there with me.

lately, i have been trying to counteract this. after all, if i’m going to be stuck there for an entire hour, then i should make it work for me in some fashion. options are limited in a darkened auditorium — it’s pretty much:

✔ listen and pay attention
✔ or don’t.

it’s not really feasible to get other work done, and it’s never going to be a relaxing place to meditate. so i might as well suck it up and see if i can get something out of the hour other than an uncomfortable and rather embarrassing mini-nap.

enter the solution!

i think i was one of two people in the entire auditorium taking notes [it’s just doesn’t seem to be in fashion in medical circles these days], but i wrote my way through the entire hour last night and do not regret one word of it.

as a result of this [at least i think so], i remained awake, followed the talk, and even gleaned a few interesting tidbits. it took a little more effort, but was ultimately far more rewarding than the alternative has been on numerous occasions. interestingly enough, one part of the talk was actually dedicated to . . .


the speaker, a lipid expert, actually brought up this book
in discussing hyperlipidemia treatments, he brought up adherence to dietary changes and weight loss programs. his point was that while the obesity crisis continues, there has been at least some progress on the understanding of what allows some patients to comply with recommendations [and others . . .not so much].

however, one concept he mentioned that i disagreed with was that everyone starts each day with a finite amount of willpower which is “depleted in all matter of tasks.” because if this were true, wouldn’t that mean that a day starting with an early workout, AM study session, and numerous other will-requiring tasks was doomed to end in a mess of id-fueled hedonistic acts by sundown?

instead, i find that just the opposite seems to be true, and i’ve written about it many times: posts like sloth begets sloth, finding the switch, and even a slightly hypomanic entry from 2005 attest to the fact that sometimes “willpower” just seems easy [and life typically seems . . . better], and other times there is just none to be found.

so where does it come from!?
unfortunately, i haven’t figured that part out yet. but i do know that i am truly happier when i have some. [or is it the other way around? when i’m happy there’s willpower to be had?!]. yesterday’s happiness project post struck a related chord, as gretchen rubin summed up her central challenge to living a life filled with happiness as

“Accept myself, and expect more from myself.”

that woman definitely has natural willpower to spare!

thoughts? arguments? secrets? i’d love to hear them.

and PS
♥♥♥♥ happy valentine’s day!! ♥♥♥♥