Willpower Instincts: Moral Licensing

For the past month, I have been focused on reading “The Willpower Instinct, How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of ItKelly McGonigal” . I have enjoyed the first 70 pages of this book so far; hoping that I can take away some action items for personal development.


This book is about how human brain/mind deals with decision-making. It explains concepts such as willpower and self-control, and provides recommendations on how to improve this power.


The chapter I was reading today is about moral licensing. This chapter basically elaborates on why very good people sometimes fail in their morals and deal with great public dramas. The book claims that there is no exact logical definition of good and bad in human’s mind. Instead, we have a feeling that we have been good. Our right or wrong judgments are based on a gut feeling, and we only look into logics behind it when we are forced to explain our feelings.


Moral licensing tricks us to self-sabotaging behaviors. Basically, we give ourselves permission to follow our impulses and justify giving in to immediate rewards, because we feel good about our past good behaviors. We believe we deserve a treat, such as an extra piece of cake, because we have been good, by working out for an extra half an hour today


When we define our willpower challenge as something that is right to do, or something that we should do to be good, we are less likely to stick to it and we start to come up with arguments on why we shouldn’t have to. Here is where defining precise and measurable goals plays an important role.


Yoga: Connection of body and mind

I have been attending Yoga classes here and there for the past year. One of the statements the instructors always use is “Your hips hold your emotions”, or at some specific poses, such as pigeon pose, they mention that we may feel emotional.

Each time I hear this, it makes me wonder if this statement has any science behind it? How could our hips store emotions? Why would these emotions store in our hips rather than anywhere else? How is this connection between our body and mind established?

Habitual Lier …

Why do you think people lie?! I know of somebody that lies about almost anything. She is never honest about the details of the stories, events, or etc. Surprisingly, she has a great ability in mixing some truth and some lies and making it look like reality … I never understand though … WHY? Sometimes I do not find any personal interests behind the lies she tells. Is it a habit? Does she just enjoy playing with people? I feel so … It’s more like a game for her to play. When people believe her, she feels a great sense of accomplishment … A strange type of personality I would say .. Don’t you think so?!

Passionate for what?!

When I graduated from my master of science and started to work, I faced one of the biggest problems of my life; too many available options when it comes to making a choice. My educational life in Iran was all about following a path that was defined in advance as a norm in the society. Yes .. I did study Math and physics in high school, then I attended the entrance exam of the university, based on my grade, I chose a top engineering program in a top engineering university in Tehran. To be honest, I did focus more on the selection of the university, because I surely knew I want to move to Canada for my graduate studies. I needed the name of the university, to make this dream come true. I was never madly in love with Chemical Engineering. I liked some parts, but not the others. At that point, there was not much possibility to change my program. If there was any, it would result in a huge waste of time. Therefore, I decided to focus on my discipline, and try to find an interesting specialization in this trade. That’s how I decided to study Process Control for my master degree. Two years and a half of Process Control was Ok. I was not passionate about it, it was just something that I could do. At the time of graduation, I felt like a bird escaping from the cage. I knew I never want to go for a Phd anymore.

When I started working for Suncor, I didn’t know my field of work is going to be very much different from my field of study. I was an Automation Engineer, which surprisingly had nothing to do with all the crap I learnt in the university! I loved the process of learning something new … but is it or was it something that I’m passionate about? I am negative on that.

Living in Canada and earning money more than the amount required for surviving gave me the opportunity of exploring. I started to experience. Anything that you could think of. Different arts, different sports, different activities … I am drowning in the sea of options … desperately looking for something that I’m passionate about, while I have no idea how to distinguish my passion from ordinary activities. When I was a teenager, I used to love doing things that I am good at! The secret point was that I had enough spare time to spend on my hobbies, so I was the best at them. My musical instrument, Turkish Tar, which I never loved … I was performing on the stage with it. I was teaching Astronomy (which surprisingly I did love), etc .. but at the age of 27, with the work schedule that I have, I can pick one or two hobbies and focus on them to improve … but the sea of options is there … how am I going to know what to choose? I want to get back to music, so I’m learning flute, but then sometimes I think of trying a different instrument, I want to learn French, while I was learning Spanish while ago, I still think maybe I should learn C++, to be able to move to more software programming, etc.

I sometimes think, if I keep experiencing I may find the love of my life. On the other hand, I also think I do not stick to one thing enough, to enjoy being good at it. I find myself distracted with lack of focus on what I’m doing … jumping from one activity to another …

So the question is, how do you find your passion in life? Does it really matter to work on what you are passionate about or should you become passionate about what you are doing? How do you maintain your focus on what you are doing? How do you stay persistence?