The study found that as students got closer to exam time, those who said willpower was limited felt lower levels of well-being / Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Belief in personal determination helps 'progress towards meaninful goals'

People who believe that willpower is unlimited are more likely to be happier with life, new research has suggested.

A study, called ‘Implicit theories about willpower predict subjective well-being’, found that those who felt willpower was limited experienced a “downward trend” in their well-being when demands increased.

The researchers ruled out variables such as levels of optimism and pessimism, and self-efficacy, as having an effect on the link between willpower and levels of well-being.

Published in the Journal of Personality, the study first surveyed more than 250 people, with an average age of 39, who used internet forums to express feelings about stress.

The people who felt willpower was unlimited usually had higher levels of life satisfaction, the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog reported

The results were corroborated when researchers surveyed university students about their willpower beliefs and life satisfaction at the start of their academic year and again six months later before they were about to sit their exams. 

As they approached their exams, students who said they believed willpower was limited at the beginning of the year experienced a sharper drop in happiness.

In its conclusion, the authors of the study said: “A [non-limited] theory about willpower encourages people to successfully strive for and make progress towards personally meaningful goals.”