“Your supply of willpower is limited, and you use the same resource for many different things,” say Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney in their bestselling book Willpower.
Every time you exert your willpower – making a decision, handling a crisis, or avoiding a temptation – you are drawing on limited reserves. Studies have shown that if you find yourself exerting extra willpower, you have a greater chance of giving up on something else later in the day.
Baumeister created an experiment where participants were brought into a room with 2 plates, a plate of cookies and a plate of radishes. Some participants were asked to eat the cookies, and some to eat the radishes. After a brief wait, they were then given 30 minutes to solve a complex geometric problem, a problem that was actually impossible to solve.
The ones who ate the radishes, and had to exert self-control to keep from eating the cookies, gave up an average of 8 minutes later. The cookie-eaters persevered much longer, for an average of 19 minutes.
When that study was published in 1998, it laid the groundwork for a theory called Ego Depletion.
Using your willpower to make a decision, the Ego Depletion theory goes, reduces your reserves of willpower. This makes it more likely that you will not make good choices later, and this is precisely why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day: black turtleneck, blue jeans. By removing the need to make any choices about what he was going to wear that day, it left him more willpower to draw from later.
Parenthood Naturally Drains Willpower
Kids are a constant supply of unexpected stresses. No matter what you happen to be doing, at any moment, you could be interrupted by a crash from the other room, screeching demands of justice, or a puddle of vomit in your lap.
Keeping your cool in every new crisis is the hallmark of the Better Dad.
Even if you can’t respond with patience every single time, you can try to respond patiently more often. With stronger reserves of willpower, your chances of patient success increase dramatically.
Improving your willpower is easy, and it just takes one simple, uncomfortable habit.
Taking Cold Showers Will Strengthen Your Willpower
Your body has an automatic response to freezing cold water: Get the heck out of it!
Getting into a cold shower early in the morning is not easy. And that’s the point.
Taking a cold shower is a difficult (but minor) challenge that you fully experience in a physical way. Your entire body will react with spasms, and your brain will tell you many, many reasons why this cold shower thing is a bad idea.
The man who can face that discomfort, and overcome the objections of his body and his mind, is a man with a will stronger than other men.
HARDENING – The Real Benefit of Cold Showers
The physical health benefits of cold showers are all great, and make a cold shower experiment worthy of your time.
But the real superpower that you get from taking a cold shower every day is called Hardening.
“Cold showers appear to have improved my stress tolerance,” says Todd Becker, “by buffering emotional reactions. What I mean by this is that bad news, surprises, arguments, or events that would have previously caused a brief surge in adrenaline or an emotional flush, no longer have that effect, or at most have a very attenuated effect.”
Todd writes about Hormesis, the idea that the right kinds of stresses help make us into stronger people. For Dads that are into self-improvement, personal development, or physical fitness (you know, you guys) Hormesis is something you definitely want to know about.
You can really see Hormesis in effect after the first week or two taking cold showers every day. You can handle stress easily, and when the unexpected happens – you don’t panic.
Every morning, you are actively tempering your panic response by taking a cold shower. Your body freaks out when the cold water hits your skin, and your daily training enables you to breathe through the panic, and intentionally do what you have decided to do, without being distracted by the sensation barrage happening in your brain.
During your next family meltdown – projectile vomit, shattered glass, or an unexpected tantrum – whatever happens, you will find yourself more likely to breathe deep, steel yourself for the discomfort, and endure it with patience.
Hardening is the bedrock of your willpower. Cold showers will test how hard you are, and every day, you can rise to the occasion and endure physical discomfort, so long as you have made the decision to endure.
This decision doesn’t stop at the shower. It stays with you, and all the livelong day, you will stick to your decisions, because you have the strong willpower of someone who takes cold showers every morning.