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The Power of Willpower and Self-Control

Aug 25th, 2021 | 3 Min Read
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Category: Spirituality


Language: English

Walter Mischelle of Stanford University in 1972 conducted an experiment which is famously known as "The Marshmallow Test". In this experiment, researchers brought a few kids to a room and gave them a choice between a tiny but immediate reward or two small rewards if they waited for a period. The prize was a marshmallow of their choice. The researchers explained to the children that if they managed to resist for more than 15-30 minutes, they would receive a reward of double marshmallows or chocolate bars. Some of the children didn't hesitate at all and immediately consumed the marshmallow. Few others resisted for 5-10 minutes. Some looked away. They controlled their tongues for 20 minutes. A small percentage of them accomplished the task. They succeeded in resisting the marshmallow. In the end, they were able to relish two marshmallows.

Willpower and Success - The Connection

After 20 years, researchers tracked down these children and discovered that those who had resisted the temptation of marshmallows for longer had achieved success. Those who gave up soon had relationship problems and health issues; some had also been in jail. What was the cause of such extremities? Willpower. Yes, the amount of self-control and willpower we have determines the quality of our lives. Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya said: 
जितं जगत केन, मनो हि येन
Jitam jagat kena, mano hi yena
"Who can conquer the world? The one who has conquered the mind." Therefore, if we wish to reach the heights of success, we need to increase our willpower. 

Conquering the Mind - The Story of the Sage

There is an interesting story in this regard. There was a king who was very proud of himself. He always wanted his courtiers to praise him. He wanted his glories to be exalted profusely. However, a brave courtier told the king, "O king, he is not the most powerful who has conquered several kingdoms, but he is the greatest who has conquered ten thousand elephants." The king was surprised to hear this. He asked, "Is there such a person?" He replied, "Yes, Your Majesty! There is such a man in the neighbouring kingdom." The king and his army set off for battle with this man. When they reached the neighbouring kingdom, they found out that it was a sage who had conquered 10,000 elephants. They visited his ashram. The enlightened sage was deep in meditation. The king and his entourage sat down. A deep sense of peace and calm overcame all of them. Everyone was absorbed in deep meditation. A few hours passed by. The sage opened his eyes. All of them also opened their eyes. Everyone was at peace. That is when the king realized that the mind was like a mad elephant. It does all the wrong things. But the one who can conquer his mind can also conquer the minds of others, and this is how the sage had conquered ten thousand elephants. He humbly bowed down to the sage and left. 

Building Willpower - The Importance of Training the Mind

Similarly, we too need to control our senses and mind. How do we do this? Shree Kripaluji Maharaj teaches us, 
मन को मानो शत्रु उसकी सुनहु जनी कछु प्यारे 
man ko māno śhatru uskī sunahu janī kachu pyāre
"Your mind is your enemy. Do not listen to it." Whenever the mind wants to do something pleasurable, do the opposite. Our mind often says, 'I do not want to do yoga.' We have to force the mind to do yoga. Building a healthy routine requires self-discipline. That will only come by increasing our willpower. We can train our minds to develop the muscle of willpower, much like how we can train our bodies to build muscles. We can start small. Suppose you have a sudden craving to eat ice cream; do not eat it. You want to watch TV for another 5 minutes. Resist it. Watch a kirtan for 5 minutes instead. The more you resist the gratification of the senses, the more willpower you will develop. 

Meditation - The Most Powerful Technique to Increase Self-Control

The most powerful technique to increase self-control is meditation. Research shows that 3 hours of meditation can change your thought pattern significantly. Therefore, we should meditate for at least 20-30 minutes daily. After one month, you are sure to experience a new you.
Let us all start meditating now!
Let us conquer our minds and, hence, conquer the world!