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Believe You Can


Techniques Willpower > Believe You Can

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Deliberately and carefully build your own belief in free will and that you have choice. Practice doing things where you clearly make choices and confirm to yourself afterwards that you are able to choose at any time. Avoid anything that suggests you do not have free will, including psychological research indicating this.


A psychology student has been told that the unconscious mind effectively is in full control of what they do, and that conscious choice is an illusion. They find that they subsequently seem to have less willpower. They then decide to compartmentalize this knowledge within their mind, making the psychological learning 'theory' while they build faith in their real ability to consciously manage their lives. They consequently feel they are better able to manage their lives.


The problem with believing you have little control over your life is that it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, in which the limiting belief about having limited real will leads to not trying to exercise will. On the other hand, belief in free will also is self-fulfilling. If you just assert to yourself that you have free will, then this will be more likely to work.

Rigoni et al (2011) got subjects to read about evidence that we do not have the free will that we think we have, and that the unconscious mind has a greater influence than we imagine. They then measured brain activity in an experiment where the subjects made a 'sudden' choice. They found that the brains of those who had been primed with information that challenged free will showed a greater activity in unconscious thought before their decision point. This implies that if you believe you have less will, then you unconscious mind will respond by taking greater control of your choices.

An implication of this is that if you suggest that others have less free will, then they will be more open to persuasion that influences their unconscious minds rather than methods that require conscious consideration.

See also

Beliefs, Changing Belief, Overcoming Limiting Beliefs


Rigoni, D., Kuhn, S., Sartori, G., and Brass, M. (2011). Inducing Disbelief in Free Will Alters Brain Correlates of Preconscious Motor Preparation: The Brain Minds Whether We Believe in Free Will or Not. Psychological Science, 22 (5), 613-618

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