Virtue, Willpower

Does your brain need to be charged? A how-to

brainWhy charging your brain is the key to success

We’ve all dealt with it-that 2pm, asleep-at-your-desk feeling that you can’t shake. Or maybe you’re the type that can’t function until around 10am and then only on a couple of hits of caffeine.

Why do you suddenly feel so sleepy? The answer: Your brain needs to be charged. It may only comprise 2% of our bodies, but it consumes 20% of our bodies’ energy.

Sugar vs. Splenda

A study of willpower considering drinking lemonade with sugar versus Splenda showed significantly better willpower with the real sugar. *

Our decision-making and the amount of patience we have in taking time to think things through are connected to our willpower. Willpower is weaker when we haven’t fed our minds properly. So how do we feed our minds? Is sugar the answer?

Well, a teaspoonful of sugar is not the answer, but there is a way to charge our brain batteries.

No glucose = no willpower

Think of willpower like a muscle. It can get tired with overuse, and it requires energy in order to help us make good decisions. Stress burns energy. When we are stressed, we tense up, often tightening our muscles.

Take a look at yourself right now. Relax your neck, shoulders, arms and then legs. Notice a little tension? Most of us will. Remaining calm keeps our bodies ready for situations that require the energy that willpower often demands.

Tough love becomes permissive parenting

At the end of the day, we’re often more lenient with our children. Think about it: If you work, and you have to pick up kids on the way home, you might suffer from depleted willpower.

burger and friesPerhaps you know you and your spouse plan to cook together when you get home, but your exhaustion weakens your willpower. Suddenly, you find yourself steering the car toward a fast-food restaurant, and more specifically, the drive-thru, just to get one more task off your plate.

Not only do you end up spending more, but usually it is less healthy than what you could cook at home. Maybe the kids badger you when you get home, asking to play video games, but your weeknight rule is no video games.

Your depleted brain battery says “give in” even though you know you shouldn’t. They’re in your face, asking again and again, and you just want them to be quiet, so you give in, allowing them to win the parent vs. child battle. Tough love can quickly become permissive parenting. 

3 ways to charge your brain battery

Three of the biggest factors in charging our brain batteries are:

  1. Sleep
  2. Exercise
  3. Meditation

Sleep – Thanks to my education as a Culture Index licensee, I learned that eight hours of sleep is sleeping animalnot required for everyone. Mental stamina is a measurable trait and this varies as widely as extraversion and introversion. The key is to know thyself. (Click here for a free quiz to find out your own mental stamina!) In order to do this, experimentation is best. Here’s how:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night. Yes, every night.
  • Get up at the same time every morning. Make this time what you think would be best for you.
  • Check in with your brain to see how it’s doing several times during the day. Are you alert? Do you feel like you need a nap? Are you losing mental acuity?
  • Adjust your bed time or wake time plus or minus 15 minutes.
  • Maintain the new time for at least two weeks.
  • Make further adjustments as needed.

According to my Culture Index results, my mental stamina is well above the norm. I have received feedback about how I’m harming myself by not getting “8 hours of sleep” a night. This is virtually impossible for me to do. So, after experimenting, I now go to bed at 11 and my alarm goes off shortly after 5 in the morning. Every night.

This allows me to maximize my awake hours during the day so I can get a ton done while providing me enough sleep. And I do not consume caffeine. (Dislike me if you want!)

man runningExercise

The positive effects of exercise are well-documented.

Bottom line, it releases endorphins, or feel-good hormones, increases alertness, improves overall health and well-being and improves quality of sleep. If you aren’t currently exercising, the best way to form the habit is to start extremely small. Do one pushup and one sit up a day. The key is to do something. Anything.

Think about this- if you didn’t have the habit of brushing your teeth, attempt to brush just one tooth. You and I both know as soon as you brush one, you’re going to brush the rest. It’s the same with exercise. Do something and it will naturally turn into more.


The effects of meditation are huge as well. Tim Ferriss talks about meditation with almost all of his podcast guests. There are many forms of meditation, and they all have benefits.

I have found mental prayer to be most effective. My goal when meditating is to have a conversation with God. Documented positive effects from meditation include: physiological effects, psychological effects and spiritual effects. Don’t believe me? Here over 100 ways meditation can affect you positively, just to get you started.

Neuroscientists have shown that meditation specifically leads to better self-control. This self-control helps to recharge your battery, giving you better willpower. Maybe tomorrow you’ll make it home with the kids and no fast-food!

Challenge #6: Sleep, exercise or meditation? Pick just one, and try to add the habit to your daily routine. If you choose sleep, perhaps try to wake up at the same time every morning for the next week and see what happens. Maybe you don’t exercise – commit to doing just one pushup and one sit up every night or every morning for a week.

Meditation is simple and free. To get started, simply commit to sitting quietly for 2 minutes, or talk/pray with God for that time every day. (Same place, same time usually works best for Doug Kisgen's back cover photoexercise and meditation.) Leave me a comment with which one you chose and what your results were!

Who is Doug? Doug Kisgen is an author, entrepreneur and personality expert. His primary work? Raising his five kids with his wife of 20+ years in the hill country of Texas. 

For ways to put these ideas into practice, check out Doug’s book, Rethink Happy: An Entrepreneur’s Journey Toward Authentic Joy, available as an e-book now, or pre-order the paperback!

For more information on today’s topic, check out this link.

*Thinking Fast and Slow,  Matthew T. Gailliot et al, “Self-Control Relies on Glucose as a Limited Energy Source: Willpower Is More Than a Metaphor,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92 (2007) and Matthew T. Gailliot and Roy F. Baumeister, “The Physiology of Willpower: Linking Blood Glucose to Self-Control,” Personality and Social Psychology Review 11 (2007)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *