How to Increase Your Inner Willpower!

May 29, 2017

What is Willpower?

Kelly McGonigal, PhD and author of The Willpower Instinct states, "The willpower response is a reaction to an internal conflict". In short, willpower is our mental ability to overcome obstacles. Whether those obstacles are weight loss, relationships or at work, increasing our willpower is something we can all use. 

 

Use It or Lose It. Get that Willpower Muscle Flexing

We have learned willpower is similar to a muscle: you have to use it to build it. Foregoing long periods with no willpower training cuts your willpower and  allows for temptation to run rampant. The key to training willpower is to remain consistent in stimulating it. Habits that challenge you will allow you to build that willpower muscle. 

 

Avoid Willpower Fatigue
Building willpower muscle is important. Stay consistent but don't over do it. Like any muscle, too much exercise will cause fatigue and will lead to the exact opposite results! We see this in crash diets. People have strong willpower in the beginning, but when they come crashing down, all hell breaks loose. One week they're eating egg whites and turkey bacon for breakfast, the next week cake. Studies show that maintaining willpower over too long a period will eventually lead to willpower breakdown [1]. So, while it's important to shoot for the moon, it's also important to be realistic. 
 

Plan Ahead

The first thing you need to know about willpower is to plan ahead. It's like my grandmother always said, "Fail to Plan is a Plan to Fail". A couple of pointers when making your plans. 

 

Pick your Reward First.

It helps to know where you're going and what you're getting before starting off. But, this will also help during those especially tough times when doubt begins to kick into the mind. Seeing your goal and seeing your reward mentally is a huge asset to making it through the struggles. I've seen people take an old dress they want to fit in and hang it on the fridge. Other people will take a photo out and place it on their desk to remind themselves of what they are shooting for. 

 

Anticipate Roadblocks
Struggle is going to happen. It's inevitable. Try to use your imagination to foresee possible obstacles along the way. Questions like, "How will this go wrong" or "What can threaten these results" or "What is this goal depending on" will really help challenge your thoughts. Naturally, you won't be able to predict every obstacle, but any pitfall that can be avoided is one less test of willpower for you. 
 
Pick the Tougher Stuff First
Arnold Schwarzenegger use to work on his calves first. He knew his biceps and chest had good development. At the beginning of his training sessions, he would smash his calves using the majority of his energy on his weaknesses. Working on any goal, we should have the same mindset. Place your weakness first or hardest stuff first, while your energy and patience is still fresh. This way you have a better chance of succeeding. 
 
Stick to the Baby Steps of Your Plan
As you are moving through your plan, pay attention to the details. Stick to the small stuff. Each time your finish something small on the list, cross it out. Develop the association of satisfaction with a finished task. Also, self-affirmation has been show to really help here. A little self-talk has never hurt anyone. Use your imagination and try to visualize the end. A remember, take things one step at a time. 
 
Meditate

We all know meditation is powerful. Just the simple act of carving out time to meditate in our morning routine shows willpower. 

Research shows that after just 2-3 days of practicing meditation for 10 minutes, your brain will be able to focus better, you will have more energy, and you will be less stressed. [2] If you struggle with meditation, do it first thing in the morning (pick the tougher stuff first). There are a ton of guided meditations on Youtube. Pick one you like and put it in your routine.

 
Rest and Repeat
Lastly, when you reach the top of the mountain, don't forget to enjoy the view. Often we fill our lives with goal after goal after goal. Remember, life happens on the journey and it's important to spend a little time be grateful for the journey itself. Good luck! 
 
 
“Strength does not come from physical capacity.
It comes from an indomitable will,” 
 Mahatma Gandhi 
 

[1] The strength model of self-control by Roy F Baumeister, Kathleen D Vohs, Dianne M Tice
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18400671
 
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