Did you know it takes five years to become an overnight success? Nothing worth having ever came easy. Personal growth comes from building healthy and positive habits every day. But without willpower, we may as well kiss our dreams goodbye. Willpower is what fuels our motivation on the days when we want to hide under the bed covers.
You may have the same skill set, education, and support as another person. But if you lack willpower and they have it in abundance, they will leave you in their dust. Your willpower, or lack of it, will set you apart from others in your personal and work life.
This article will outline the importance of willpower and how it influences your life. It will then suggest 5 ways you can increase your willpower.
The importance of willpower
This article in the American Psychological Association describes willpower as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.”
Think of the student studying for an upcoming exam. The temptation to escape the books and join their friends on a night out is a short-term temptation. But if they have enough willpower to power through, they are more likely to do well in their exam and can celebrate with friends afterward.
Humans are programmed to crave instant gratification. Those of us with high willpower can switch off our need for immediate reward in favor of more long-term goals.
But it takes learning and practice. None of us are born with willpower. Have you ever seen a baby waiting patiently for food?
In a study about stress levels in Americans, 27% of respondents cited a lack of willpower as responsible for not managing to achieve the changes they set their sights on. Imagine what a little more willpower could help you with.
If you find yourself struggling with delaying gratification, here's one of our articles on the topics with some interesting tips!
How willpower impacts your life
You can have all the talent in the world, but your talents may only be valuable if you have corresponding levels of willpower.
In a study into the practice of self-control, researchers found that students with better grades also had higher levels of self-discipline but not necessarily higher IQ levels.
Interestingly, the more self-discipline we learn as children, the higher our chance of health and success. In this longitudinal study, the researchers tracked 1,000 participants from childhood until 32 years old. Researchers found that self-control is a predictor of:
- Lower likelihood of substance dependence.
- Physical health.
- Better personal finances.
- Lower likelihood of committing crimes.
Willpower is that all-important factor to keep us eating healthily, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and making optimal decisions. We may have dips in our willpower, which requires all our strength to stop whatever lousy habit we have succumbed to.
While unhealthy habits can become addictions, we still need the willpower to break the devastating harm addiction can cause.
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5 ways to improve your willpower
While you may not have an abundance of willpower just now, the good news is that you can increase your willpower with a concerted effort.
Here are 5 tips to help increase your willpower.
1. Bargain with yourself
Sometimes bargaining with yourself helps.
I am an athlete, and I train hard. My training week typically involves six runs, a swim, a turbo, and three strength sessions. I usually tackle it all with enthusiasm. But sometimes, I lack motivation. I find myself coming out with excuses and imaginary pains when this happens.
In these situations, I tell myself that I must start my training session, and if I still can’t be bothered after 10 minutes, I am allowed to stop.
But the critical point here is that often, once we have overcome the "can’t-be-bothereditis", we can stick it out. I’ve never stopped after 10 minutes, and I doubt you will, either.
If you resist doing something, tell yourself that you can stop after a set time, but you must start. I suspect you will then see it out through to the end.
2. Build habits
We all know the power of habits. On average, a new habit takes two months to form.
There are things you can do to expedite the formation of habits and to help them become part of your day and almost automatic. When positive mental health habits become integral to your day, your willpower builds proverbial muscles, and everything becomes more effortless.
Set yourself up for success with these excellent habit-building processes:
- Use a time-blocking technique to maximize productivity.
- Schedule your exercise routine.
- Create a meal plan if you want to eat healthily.
- Build a daily routine around a personal project.
- Do the more arduous task first each day so it doesn’t weigh you down.
- Keep a list of tasks achieved and tasks outstanding.
3. Be accountable
Only those with the strongest willpower are accountable to themselves. It can take a while to get to that place. So, consider pairing up with a friend and holding each other accountable.
It could be for anything you are trying to achieve:
- Increasing fitness.
- Stopping smoking.
- Reducing alcohol consumption.
- Eating healthier.
- Growing your business.
When you know, someone is looking over your shoulder and waiting to hear about your progress; you are more likely to find the motivation to stick to your plan.
The important thing here is to remember that we all have blips sometimes. If you are on a diet and eat a couple of cookies, that’s fine; draw a line and start a new day afresh.
Don’t allow this to escalate with the attitude of “oh well, I may as well eat the whole pack now.”
4. Work with a professional
Sometimes it can just be too damn hard! If you are looking for the willpower to break an addiction such as smoking, you may not be able to achieve this by yourself. And there is no shame in that.
People who want to help us surround us. Set yourself up for success by taking all the help available.
Depending on where you live, check out the local options available. Your options will likely include the following:
- Support groups.
You can also ask friends and family to help you by not enabling the bad habits you are trying to break.
Think of these people as stabilizers to help you ride your bike of willpower. With their help, you will learn the basic skills, and then you can get rid of the stabilizers and ride by yourself. That’s a sign that your willpower has increased.
5. Operate a reward system
Life doesn't need to be all about the grind and the restraint. It’s essential to be able to enjoy the pleasures and rewards.
A reward system can look like several different things: If you are trying to build your fitness, you can set yourself an incentive that if you work out four times a week for a month, you will treat yourself to a meal in a nice restaurant.
Alternatively, if you are on a healthy eating mission, it can help with motivation and adherence to having a cheat day once a week.
You can break your long-term goal down into small micro goals. For instance, you could reward yourself for each month you manage to stay off the cigarettes.
This reward system helps boost your willpower with a conditional reward.
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What good are dreams and aspirations without the willpower to achieve them? Luckily you can increase your willpower and bring real change into your life.
Here are our 5 tips to increase willpower.
- Bargain with yourself.
- Build habits.
- Be accountable.
- Work with a professional.
- Operate a reward system.
Do you have any tips to increase willpower that you can share with us? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!