Q&A: Willpower – fact or fiction?


An entirely different view can be grasped by considering the placebo effect, which is usually ignored within the mechanical model of researchers such as Baumeister. Consider, for example:

“When given placebos, bald men grow hair, blood pressure drops, warts disappear, ulcers heal, stomach acid levels decrease, colon inflammation decreases, cholesterol levels drop, jaw muscles relax and swelling goes down after dental procedures, brain dopamine levels increase in patients with Parkinson’s disease, white blood cell activity increases, and the brains of people who experience pain relief light up on imaging studies.” (5)

I’m not suggesting these are examples of willpower. What I’m pointing to is the considerable effect of mindset (attitude, belief) on the brain and body. Consciousness isn’t necessarily completely the result of brain activity. And that’s a key element to the breakthrough in using the maximum and sustainable power of your will.


1. “Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action.” Libet B (1985) The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 8: 529-566
2. “Neuroscience and Free Will are Rethinking their Divorce.”   Dr Christian Jarrett (2016) NYMAG: Science of US.
3. “Self-Control Relies on Glucose as a Limited Energy Source: Willpower is More Than a Metaphor.” Gailliot MT, Baumeister RF (2007) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92: 325-336
4. “Does the Brain Consume Additional Glucose During Self-Control Tasks?” Kurzban R (2010) Evolutionary Psychology 8: 244-259
5. Mind Over Medicine by Dr Lisa Rankin (Hay House, 2013), page 11. (In the book there are references to research for each one of these examples.)


Pages: 1 2 3


  1. Gillian

    I’ve found it helpful to just to forget about the notion of “willpower” and whether I have it or not! The best thing for me is that in following your method of the Outline, I’m able to exercise genuine choice and make decisions which feel increasingly effortless. I’ve moved quite naturally to an Intermittent fasting approach since attending the seminar, and to the outside world it might well look as if I’m exercising massive willpower not to eat breakfast after an evening meal at 6pm but it certainly doesn’t feel like it! And I used to feel all the time that I had no possibility of controlling food choices or amounts and there was quite literally not a split second when I could make conscious intervention. Now I’ve experienced that’s just not the case: I’m no longer operating on autopilot. But maybe the other thing that has helped with this business of “willpower” is that now I’m prioritising my nutritional needs I’m just not ever ravenous enough where I need to dive into crap. If the food available isn’t what I need I genuinely now prefer to wait until I can get what I need. I remind myself no one ever died of starvation between meals!

    • Brilliant to read this. I’d say you are now able to access the power of your free will. What most people think of as willpower, really isn’t, and creates frustration and big effort.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.