Is Your Ego Depleted?

Some content I made just had to be approved by an august body in the USA.

It passed muster, but was challenging as the research material it deals with is vast and sprawling – on why and how we make the decisions we do.

More on this shebang will be chunked down in future posts. But today I thought I’d tackle an interesting area in psychology relating to this : that of ego depletion.

Now symptoms of ego depletion include wolfing down that third essential hobnob to finish a report you’re writing; a sense of complete indecision in the supermarket after a day of demanding meetings; or the feeling – when you’ve disagreed with everyone else – that you have little further fight in reserve.

The idea is that self-control and willpower are not limitless reserves : and that many factors can knock them back.

You’re Not One Of Us

A research study told students they were either wanted or not wanted, to work as collaborators with others. Then cookies were presented to help with the effort. The non-chosen, the exluded, ate double the amount of cookies that the chosen did. Not surprising, you may think, I’d have done exactly the same…

But what is interesting is the thought process here. It’s as if we bargain with our self-control to exert it in order to be socially acceptable. If we are deemed sufficiently unacceptable, we tend to think ‘ Self-control…why bother? I don’t fit in anyway’.

You Need Something Sweet

A group of judges were studied on a parole board. The results were startling. Straight after a break and food refuel, they granted the highest number of parole requests, 65%. (Decisions which give them greater accountability and stress).

As the morning wore on their approvals got less and less – until just before lunch, when their glucose levels were low, 20% of requests were granted.

Further research shows that low levels of glucose in the brain alter decision-making to be more about immediate rewards, than long-term ones.

You’ve Made Too Many Decisions

Another study compared two groups working on problem-solving after having to exert quite high levels of self-control (involving eating radishes versus cookies). The radish eaters and cookie avoiders did not perform nearly as well as the group who had not needed to exert such control. Ego depleted, they gave up earlier on the problem solving.

The main source of this research is Roy Baumeister. You can read further articles about his and others research in the New York Times , and psychology blog You Are Not So Smart.

And for any of you suffering depleted ego at the moment – there’s a free gift to download at the top of this post. Please share with anyone who may find it useful.

It’s a collection of blog posts from here about networking, which some of us can find exhausting and I prepared it for a client.

But I’d also like to add one more consideration.

Some of you in UK readers may have watched on tv the fascinating 56 Up where film director Michael Apted has followed a diverse group of adults every seven years of their lives.

Now at age 56, many of the group have gone on to have happy and fulfilled lives, even if their career realizations have matched their destiny at birth. The same theme emerges constantly – how other people, their own families or groups they help through charity or work, now create fulfillment for them.

Maybe the best way to restore a depleted ego is just to give our egos a rest. In the meantime, there is always the beckoning cookie jar.

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