I discussed habits in my last post and wanted to further explain willpower since it plays such a critical role in developing habits. Lack of willpower is a HUGE reason why people can’t follow through with their goals.
What is willpower?
Willpower, also known as self-control, is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. Some people have more than others simply because they have exercised it like a muscle and made it stronger, but willpower is a limited resource. Research shows that you only have a certain amount of willpower. Think of it like a willpower life bar. You start with a full bar in the morning and use it up throughout the day. Ever notice that some days you still have the will to go to the gym at night, but then other days you just can’t do it no matter how hard you try? More than likely you have used up most of your willpower throughout the day and just don’t have enough to motivate you enough to go to the gym. So, tip number one is to use willpower wisely! Don’t waste it unnecessarily.
Research shows that those who have more willpower do better in school. In fact, willpower is more important in predicting academic success than IQ. So, developing your willpower is extremely important if you want to succeed with your goals. Your level of willpower impacts every aspect of your life!
How to manage and strengthen willpower
1 – Think of it as a battery and use use it wisely.
2 – Set up hard and fast rules that cannot be compromised – no need to waste willpower on these decisions.
3 – Change your environment so it supports you. Remove temptations. For example, I wanted to spend less time on Facebook so I deleted it from my phone. Now I don’t use any willpower on resisting that temptation because it’s not on my phone. Also, if you are trying to eat better, remove the junk food from your house. If there is no easy access to junk food, then no willpower will be wasted resisting those nearby snacks.
4 – Have a plan for obstacles and pit-falls. How will you handle temptations? If you set this up ahead of time, it will be easier to avoid the temptation. Use implementation intentions. These are typically “if-then” statements. Example: If someone offers me candy at work, then I will go eat a healthy snack in my desk instead.
5 – Make it reward/punishment based. If I do (thing I shouldn’t do), then I have to (something I don’t want to do). The immediate consequence will keep you from doing the tempting activity. It can work in many ways, for example: If I eat that snicker, then I have to do 200 push-ups. If I don’t go to the gym, then I have to eat 500 less calories today… Or, If I go to the gym, I can get a protein shake after.
6 – Flex those willpower muscles in order to grow them. Do not try and start multiple goals all at the same time because you won’t have enough willpower to last . Start small and build your willpower up.
7 – Use your willpower to install habits. Once the habit has taken hold, it requires way less willpower. Once it’s a habit, use that left over willpower to build new and better habits.
8 – Eat healthy. Studies show that willpower depletion is tied to glucose levels.
9 – Stay positive! Positive moods, attitudes, and beliefs can counteract willpower depletion. In addition, high level of motivation can have the same effect.
The single most effective keystone habit that you can change starting today that will have an impact on multiple areas in your life is the habit of willpower! You can strengthen your ability to regulate your impulses and you can learn how to resist temptation. When you repeatedly resist temptation, you get small wins, and you become better at it. When you do this in one area of your life, it spills into other areas as well.
If you want to read more about some of the willpower studies, click here: American Psychological Association