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If you are an introvert, do you have bragging rights when it comes to willpower?

To speculate on the answer to this question, we need to define that mysterious thing called "willpower."  

Pure "willpower" is "using only the thought of your motivators to guide your behavior."  So, let's say your motivators for weight loss are "avoid diabetes/be a good role model for my kids." Willpower is going to an all-you-can-eat buffet and not eating all you can eat because you remember your motivators.  Willpower is mind power.  Willpower is letting yourself be guided by your own powerful idea of what is right.  Willpower is Jane Eyre, though friendless and penniless, telling Mr. Rochester: "I am a free human being with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you."

Introverts are people who are energized by their inner world of ideas and impressions.  They've learned to tune in to their own minds.  So I would think that, yes, introverts might have more willpower than extroverts because they are accustomed to motivating themselves with their inner vision. 

Extroverts are people who are energized and motivated by the outer world of people and things. Are they, then, out of luck when it comes to willpower?   Hmm.  First of all, to be clear, extroverts need to have some willpower in the sense of knowing what their motivators are.  Are they skillful at bringing their motivators to mind? Maybe not as much as introverts.  They will be focused on people and things rather than their inner world.

That's a good theory, but I know extroverts whose willpower could move the earth off its axis.  How to explain this?  Well, for one thing, whether you're an introvert or extrovert, it's just one dimension of your personality. And, sometimes a person's preference for introversion or extroversion might not be that strong.


Extrovert willpower? Credit: istockphoto

More to the point, extroverts might be better than introverts at mobilizing outside resources, such as friends and self-help groups, to help them with their change.  I call this skill "changepower"--"the ability to combine willpower with outside resources such as other people, places, and things."  They can extend their will by organizing the world around them to reinforce their desired change.  (More on "the extended will" in a future blog.)

So here's my best guess:  Introverts may have more willpower, but extroverts may have more "changepower." Your thoughts?

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you may need to stretch a bit in the other direction if your habit change requires it. Just remember what philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said: "He who has a why can endure any how."   

© Meg Selig, 2011.  All rights reserved.

Source"Willpower is..." Selig, M. Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success, (Routledge, 2009), p. xix.