President's Message to students about willpower

July 3, 2018


Greetings Gamecock students,

On June 21 we experienced the solstice, so summer is officially in full swing, and I hope you are in full swing, too. In some societies, the solstice is considered "mid-summer" but around here we tend to think of it as the start of summer. We like the fact that summer days are longer; longer days offer us more time to enjoy life. They also provide us more time to improve ourselves in ways that will make us happier and more successful down the road. One of those ways is to develop your willpower.

Willpower is the ability to express self-control and reflects strength of character. It's an invaluable personal tool, and it's at your disposal, but using it is challenging unless you get good at it.

 

Here's the good news: it's never too late to cultivate your personal willpower.

 

There's a classic psychology study from the 1960s called the "Marshmallow Test." Preschool children were given a choice to have one marshmallow right away, or to wait patiently for ten minutes to earn a second marshmallow. The study found that those who delayed gratification went on to happier, healthier and more successful adult lives. Why? The authors theorize that increased willpower and self-restraint is a necessary ingredient to setting and reaching goals.

Here's the good news: it's never too late to cultivate your personal willpower. Think of willpower as a muscle...the more you train it, the stronger it gets. I want to recommend that, in addition to your primary activities this summer (and having a great time), you try strengthening your willpower. Set some modest goals that challenge your ability to resist...it could be a few hours of fasting; resisting dessert for a week; unplugging from your smartphone for a couple of hours each day, waking up early to exercise; writing something in a daily diary; or really anything that you view as a challenge. I would recommend a modest goal at first...not, for example, giving up daydreaming about weekends at Williams-Brice this fall! If you are successful, you can increase the level of your willpower challenge over time. Whatever you choose, be specific and make sure you can assess the strength of your will.

Gandhi once said that "strength does not come from physical capacity but from an indomitable will." Can you imagine how valuable willpower can be to you, even during the rest of your studies at Carolina? For example, you might commit to putting in some extra time studying each week, vowing to read a daily newspaper or even volunteering for a student or community organization.

Because it's also important to "practice what you preach" I'm going to join you in further developing my willpower this summer. I haven't quite decided what my "test" will be yet...something more challenging than cutting down on coffee consumption...but not as "out of reach" as giving up strawberry shortcake and peach cobbler for the summer! I will let you know what I choose, if you let me know as well.

In the meantime, it won't be long until you are packing your bags to come back to school. Until then, it will be a test of will for me to be on the Horseshoe in this serene and quiet stage, with more squirrels than students, until you get back and the academic year begins yet again.

See you soon, Gamecock students.

Harris Pastides