Willpower is the secret to success in life.
With enough willpower, you can have laser-like focus, accomplish any of your goals, and resist even the most tempting of indulgences.
Most people just assume it’s something you’re born with, like your hair or eye color.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Willpower is like a muscle. It can be trained, it gets fatigued, and with the right training, it can become strong. The only difference is willpower won’t turn any heads at the beach.
I should warn you though, training your willpower can be a challenging endeavor. It’s not much different than a fitness routine.
On the flip side, training your willpower can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It has the potential to improve your life in so many ways.
By training your willpower, you will…
- Stick to your long-term goals with ease
- Complete projects without distraction or procrastination
- Resist temptations
- Finally stick to your diet or fitness routine
- Kick ass in life
If you’re like most people that have an out of shape willpower, maybe it’s time you invested in yourself. Bookmark this article, read it through, and dedicate yourself to one of the following willpower-boosters per month. You’ll be a completely new person in no time.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard how meditation can have profound benefits for your life.
Among these many benefits is meditation’s ability to boost your willpower.
In fact, meditation is so effective at boosting self-control that health psychologist Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. included meditation as an integral part of her course, “Science of Willpower” at Stanford University (1).
Practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day can actually boost willpower by building up gray matter in areas of the brain that regulate emotions and govern decision making. Paying attention to what’s happening in the moment, what’s going on in your body, your mind, and all around you, can make it easier to tune in to choices you make several hundred times a day…”
Kelly McGonigal isn’t the only one recognizing the power of meditation.
Studies have found that meditation can increase grey matter density in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain responsible for self-control or willpower—among many other things (2).
In other words, simply by meditating every day, you can significantly improve your willpower. Considering meditation provides a host of additional health benefits like it’s ability to decrease stress and slow down aging, I couldn’t recommend it enough.
To get started, you can take a free meditation course here.
Or you can check out this guided meditation video:
Avoid Willpower Depletion
You only have a limited amount of willpower. While exercising your willpower can increase how much you have each day, it’s still a limited resource.
Think of it this way…
Weight lifting is a great way to build muscle. But you wouldn’t lift weights for an hour just before a long hiking trip. Your muscles would be too tired to enjoy the long hike.
Neither would you exercise every day of the week without a rest day.
The point is, it’s important to flex your willpower muscle to keep it in shape. But it’s also equally as important to give your willpower a break. Ideally, it’s best to strike a balance between the two.
Otherwise depleted willpower can result stress which inactivates your prefrontal cortex. This can result in uncontrollable mood swings and indulgences (e.g., unhealthy food). This is usually followed by a sense of defeat which can cause you to fall back on old unhealthy habits.
So if you’re not careful and try to take on too much at once, which depletes your willpower, it can result in a vicious cycle. It’s like running on fumes. Running on low willpower all the time is a surefire way to set yourself up for failure and never accomplish your goals.
Here are some ways you can ensure you don’t burn out your willpower:
- Don’t take on too much at once. If you’re trying to change your diet, focus on that. Don’t try to start a new fitness plan, stop drinking coffee, and break your nail biting habit at the same time.
- Try your best to avoid heavy willpower depleting situations. For example, if you have a weak spot for doughnuts and know they’re usually in the breakroom, try to eat lunch somewhere else.
- Realize that nobody is perfect. Don’t beat yourself up too much for giving in. Willpower cultivation is a gradual process, so losing your self-control is expected. The goal is to decrease the frequency of losing control.
I’ve never been a big fan of journaling. But all that changed once I tried the BEST SELF journal.
Once I started the BEST SELF journal and regular meditation, my willpower skyrocketed. I swear, these two things are the reason why I’m experiencing more personal success than I ever have in my life.
Like meditation, journaling gives you the unique opportunity to reflect on your day, personal goals, and much more.
For example, the BEST SELF journal has a section where you write down 3 things your grateful for. Every morning and every evening. This is called gratitude journaling in the personal development world.
Countless studies have shown that gratitude journaling can have profound effects on your life (3). Specifically, it’s shown to significantly increase happiness, motivation, and general well-being.
Not only are these states of mind fantastic for your willpower, they also decrease the frequency of negative emotions which result in stress. And stress completely drains your willpower.
Master The Art of Building Good Habits
When it comes to willpower, having good habits is invaluable.
That’s because when you get stressed, you’re much more likely to fall back on old habits.
But if you build healthy habits, then when you do cave, it will be significantly less harmful.
For instance, people often fall back on alcohol at the end of a stressful day. But what if you trained yourself to take a 10-minute walk every time you had a stress craving for alcohol? It may not work at first, but over time if you stuck to it, your body would begin to crave that walk instead of that glass of wine.
It’s best to pick a stress reduction technique that resonates the most with you. Once you find something that works, give it a try every time stress makes you want to indulge in something.
Here are some ideas to get you going:
- Get into adult coloring.
- Play an instrument or anything else creative.
- Exercise (going for a walk or weight lifting really helps me).
- Listen to some relaxing music while taking deep breaths.
- Talk it out to someone who really listens –just don’t rely on this one too much as they may grow tired of hearing you complain.
- Drink herbal tea like holy basil –it’s an adaptogenic herb that helps you deal with stress.
Pick a few methods and see what works best for you. The more you strengthen these positive stress response habits, the more likely they will be there to catch you when you get majorly stressed out.
I realize that being your true self is much easier said than done.
The problem with hiding your true self is that it drains your willpower and energy.
Think about it.
The main reason why we act differently in certain situations is to fit in. To do this, we must quickly analyze what type of people we’re around. Then we must make an educated guess about what type of person these people will like. It’s an exhausting mental process.
On the other hand, when you don’t worry about what people think of you, there’s no wasted effort analyzing the people you’re with. Pull it off and you’ll find that people will like you more. That’s because you’ll be a better listener and radiate authenticity.
Like willpower, being yourself in social situations is a learned skill. That being said, here are some tips you can follow to make it a little easier:
- Don’t aim to please. If you have to act in any way that has the goal of improving someone else’s impression of you, stop. Instead, act from your values, not your intent to look better in another’s eyes.
- Be present. Don’t get possessed by that voice in your head. React to your environment without over analyzing.
- Take time to get to know yourself. Try to separate your values and aspirations from what people have pressured you to want. A classic example of this is going to college because everyone expects you to. College isn’t for everyone.
- Learn to appreciate your strengths and embrace your weaknesses. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses no matter how they may seem. Meditation helps with this process.
If you approach things in life with strategy, life instantly becomes much easier.
And the same holds true for willpower.
For instance, if you have a hard time resisting chocolate during your work day, keep it out of sight. Somewhere far away from your sight. Otherwise, if your favorite chocolate bar sits there next to you all day, it will constantly drain your willpower.
If you still can’t manage to resist your go-to indulgence, use a time locking container. These nifty containers allow you to put your treats in a container that only unlocks after a set amount of time. So you can set it to, let’s say, 5 hours. That way you won’t be able to eat the snack until the timer is up.
For some people, a time locking container allows them to think about their treat considerably less because they know they can’t get it until the time is up. It’s a fantastic way to conserve willpower.
Another essential strategy for preserving your willpower is planning.
I’ll give you an example of something I’ve had to do recently. I’m currently on what’s called an elimination diet. So my diet is VERY limited and I can’t drink any alcohol. This makes most social situations really tough.
To save my willpower, I plan to eat before these social gatherings. I’ll also bring a drink such as kombucha or seltzer so I can still drink something at social events with alcohol. It’s not as good as an ice-cold beer, but it still helps ?.
Flex Your Willpower Muscle
Although a lot of these tips will help boost your willpower, it’s important to always look for ways to improve yourself. In other words, always have a personal goal to work on.
And no, I’m not talking about setting goals to buy a new house or make more money. I’m talking about goals that will improve you.
To give you a better idea, here are some examples:
- Meditate for 15 minutes every day for the next month
- Try a 30-day no complaint challenge (it’s life changing)
- Make a new fitness goal for self-love, not for superficial reasons
- Read 1 self-improvement book per month (e.g., The Power of Now, The Four Hour Body, or The Willpower Instinct)
- Learn how to play a new instrument –creative activities boost willpower too!
By constantly having a self-improvement goal you’re working on, it will flex your willpower muscle. It takes willpower to stick to a new goal and see it through. Plus, you will slowly build momentum and begin to crave activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul.
The Bottom Line
Having a strong willpower is essential if you want to live a healthy and successful life.
That’s because willpower affects nearly everything in your life. Without it, you lack the ability to resist every-day temptations, distractions, and the focus to be the person of your dreams.
But if you take the time to cultivate willpower, you can honestly accomplish anything—and I mean it.
So instead of saving for that new car or flat screen T.V, make an investment in yourself that will have a positive effect on your entire life. Dedicate a little amount of time each day to flex your willpower muscle. I promise, you won’t regret it.
Oh…and if you have any tips on how to boost willpower, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.