Many psychologists believe that willpower, or self-control, is a limited resource. You can increase the available resource through vigilant practice, just as you increase the distance you can run by running a little more each time. But when you’ve hit your limit, might as well pack up for the day.
I’m not sure if I completely agree with the simplicity of these theories (we all know how people like to rationalize their less-than-ideal behaviors), but I think there is some inherent truth to it all. Perhaps willpower is not something that can be concretely quantified, like a person’s height or mile time, but it definitely exists on a continuum, is different amongst different people, and is even different for the same person on different days.
Yesterday morning I was having the hardest time focusing on research (if anyone read my silly post, that was pretty clear to see). I’m not sure what had depleted my willpower (life has seemed relatively laid back since arriving here, but perhaps it is the foreignness of a stress-free lifestyle which has me so stressed…), but my resource was evidently shot. I’m the type of person that typically tries to fight to stay on task, but my mind was having none of it. I finally gave up trying to force myself to work and just fiddled around. I wrote down everything that was distracting me, went for a walk, soaked up some sun, daydreaming and just killing time. The idea of play before work and dessert before dinner are typically things that make me cringe, but perhaps there is something to be said for giving into daydreams and whims every now and then. I was able to come back to work and have probably the most academically productive afternoon I’ve had since arriving, followed up by a long hard run that I didn’t even have to push myself to do.
In general, I am a high-stress, tightly wound, structured individual. There are certain pros to this I suppose, but the laid-back lifestyle of the Kiwis has really gotten me thinking. They are a hard-working people, but they also place a great importance on getting true enjoyment out of life. In a sense, traveling, getting outdoors, exercising, having fun, and just relaxing and catching up with friends are equally important in having a well-balanced lifestyle. One of the most common sayings around here is “she’ll be right, mate,” the best translation of which (in my own Disney-obsessed mind) is Hakuna Matata. No worries, everything will be fine.
So despite the struggle to get rolling, I’d say it was both a fun and productive day by the end. I also need to add a picture from my walk home yesterday. Remember the drunken end of year party I mentioned? Well aren’t these men just the cutest tricorne-adorned drunks you’ve ever seen?
I also had a great evening with the flatmates, playing games while they made gluehwein (a warm, Christmas-y German beverage made with red wine, sugar, spices, and oranges) on the stovetop, and discussing everything from the difference in education funding around the world, classical music, healthcare policies, Christmas traditions, and our go-to: dreams (and experiences) of world travel.