Using Willpower to Improve Behavior

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, October 4, 1911: Had a clash with Ma this morning. I guess she thinks I am one terrible kid! I must bring about a reform if possible.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I wonder what Grandma did.  This entry seems to indicate that Grandma believed that she was in the wrong—and that if she will had enough willpower that she might be able to “reform” herself.

In 1911 willpower was considered an important precursor of good behavior:

The Power of the Will or Inhibition

The conduct of mankind is chiefly governed by the emotions, instincts, and impulses.  . . .

“I am, I ought, I can, I will” are the only firm foundation-stones upon which we can base our attempts to climb into a higher sphere of existence. The first impulse a faculty of introspection, the second a moral judgment, the third a consciousness of the freedom to act, the fourth a determination to exercise that power.

Physical Hygiene and Physical Training for Women (1911) by Anna Galbraith

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