How To Increase Your Willpower
Willpower is the most essential quality to move forward in life. You need it for everything from breaking a bad habit of learning a new skill and achieving your goals. Yet it seems to elude us when we need it the most.
Many of us believe we don’t have enough willpower to succeed, but that is not true. Willpower can be trained and strengthened, and it is always possible to turn back and take back control over yourself.
Ways to strengthen willpower
Fix your routines
A healthy resolve needs a healthy body and mind. Get enough sleep. Eat a healthy and balanced diet with enough vegetables and protein. Drink plenty of water. All of this helps with your willpower when you need it the most. There are several studies that show following a poor diet and being sleep-deprived heightens our emotions, and we are more likely to fall for instant gratification in such states.
Also, tasks that require a lot of willpower often end up pushing us back to old bad habits. Many former-smokers fall back into old routines when they are facing a stressful task. Making healthy habits ensures that your automatic mode doesn’t go the wrong way when your will is busy with other tasks.
Don’t follow good milestones with bad rewards
You have rigorously followed the diet plan for weeks, what’s wrong with indulging in a cheeseburger for once? Well, this kind of thinking only weakens your resolve over time.
This phenomenon is called moral licensing, in which we give ourselves permission to do something “bad” since we have done something “good”. But before long, the temptation to do the “bad” thing becomes the driving force, pushing the focus away from your goal, the “good”. Doing the good thing becomes a way to achieve the bad thing, and before long you stop doing the good thing and go straight to the bad.
Make sure your rewards are framed in a way that furthers your goal. Lost a few inches? Go buy a pair of jeans in a smaller size.
Meditation and mindfulness training are great exercises if you want to strengthen your willpower. These practices gently train your mind to establish control over itself in a safe and relaxed way. But practicing mindfulness is possible even outside meditation exercises, in your everyday lives. Just take the longest line in a shopping checkout or a ticket line. Controlling your impatience there will help train you to be more patient in the bigger things going forward.
Break down your goals
Our will often gets overwhelmed when we contemplate the bigger picture and think about how much work we need to do. That is why breaking your goal down into smaller, actionable milestones is always a good idea. Stop looking up to see how far you still have to go and focus on getting to the next step only. You will reach your goal before you even notice!
Don’t say “I won’t”, say “I will”
The language we use while thinking has a lot of effect on our actions and research suggests that positive reinforcement serves better in achieving goals than negative ones. The white bear analogy is famous in willpower research. If I tell you, “don’t think about the white bear”, I can guarantee your mind will keep flashing back the image of a white bear every few minutes or so, no matter how much you try not to think about it. If you tell yourself, “I won’t eat French fries because they make me fat”, your mind will go back to French fries every time you are out in the streets.
The solution? Instead of trying not to think about a white bear, think about a black bear every time you feel the urge. Instead of trying to not think about French fries, think “I’ll start eating more baked snacks.”
Don’t hide your true self
Pretending to be what we are not is one of the greatest killers of willpower. When we try to hide or change our true personalities in order to cater to societal norms or to please other people, that requires an enormous amount of willpower. That is why people-pleasing personalities are found to be more stressed, likelier to fall back onto bad habits and struggle to learn new skills.
A little bit of decision making every day is good exercise, but when it becomes your whole day? Not so good. Decision making does require willpower, and as such depletes it. Buy groceries for the whole week and meal-prep beforehand. Wear similar clothing every day.
Self-control is not easy, and often we blame ourselves for failing. But your mind can be trained, so long you are trying. So, forgive yourself for the little lapses, and take the next step. Your willpower will surprise you in no time!