Psychologist Ibrahim Senay of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign figured out an intriguing way to create a laboratory version of both willfulness and willingness -- and to explore possible connections to intention, motivation and goal-directed actions.
Senay did this by exploring self-talk. Self-talk is just what it sounds like -- that voice in your head that articulates what you are thinking, spelling out your options and intentions and hopes and fears, and so forth. It is the ongoing conversation you have with yourself. Senay thought that the form and texture of self-talk -- right down to the sentence structure -- might be important in shaping plans and actions. What's more, self-talk might be a tool for exerting the will -- or being willing.
He discovered that setting your mind on a goal may be counterproductive and one should, insted, think of the future as an open question.
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