Willpower, or the control exerted to do something or resist impulses, doesn’t come so easily to some of us. In many ways, our culture directly contributes to our difficulty in maintaining willpower; for example, delicious, cheap, greasy fast food available on every street corner, ads for the latest flashy car or cell phone bombarding us everywhere, and thousands of shows available on streaming services with the click of a button. Why the heck would we want to control our will if we can get instant gratification from almost anything?!
Well, it seems quite obvious, but choosing to not exert our willpower can have disastrous consequences. Eating too much fried, fatty, sugary food can lead to severe health problems, buying too many things can deplete our bank account pretty quickly, and sitting on our butts for hours on end will just compound said health problems from our junk food diet.
However, with so many things working against us in the modern world, how can we have more willpower so that we can feel better, get more done, and have more success? We have a few ideas for you below.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Here are 3 great ways to build your willpower:
1. Treat yourself
Wait….what?? Isn’t the whole point of willpower to not give in to temptation?? Well, to an extent. However, resisting temptation for too long can actually have the opposite effect desired. Some experts have actually compared willpower to a muscle that can get fatigued if not given proper rest.
Roy Baumeister decided to test this theory in one early study where he brought participants into his lab with the smell of fresh-baked cookies in the air. There was a table in the room with two plates of food – one with cookies and the other with radishes. Some subjects were asked to eat the cookies, and others the radishes. After eating, they were given a difficult geometric puzzle with 30 minutes to complete it.
Baumeister and his team found that people who ate the radishes gave up on the puzzle after about eight minutes, while the cookie-eating group kept at it for 19 minutes, on average. By using their willpower to resist the cookies, the first group had less mental stamina to complete a task, the researchers concluded.
So, science shows that treating yourself every once in a while can help you stay on track with your goals, as long as you don’t go too far overboard, of course! Willpower is a finite resource, so you have to “refuel” every once in a while to keep it going.
2. Develop a good relationship with yourself
If you don’t think very highly of yourself, you’ll probably engage in more unhealthy behaviors, such as bingeing on fast food or alcohol, or staying up too late and not prioritizing sleep. However, if you learn to treat yourself with love and care, you will only want the best for yourself. You will start to look at yourself like you would your best friend, because you wouldn’t want to do anything to harm someone you care about, including yourself.
People who have more willpower tend to exercise self-love and compassion, which makes it a lot easier to resist temptations and stick to a healthy lifestyle. Willpower doesn’t just apply to eating healthy and exercising, however. Maybe you want to start your own business but need the motivation to complete all the tasks to get you there. Well, having a better relationship with yourself also helps in this regard because you’ll realize that you deserve success just as much as anyone else.
3. Understand that no person or organization can take away your power
…Without your consent, of course. If you see a billboard for a $1 hamburger at McDonald’s, this doesn’t mean you have to go buy it. You might feel tempted after a long day at work, but ultimately, you have the power to say no and drive home to cook a healthy meal. We know, easier said than done, but if you practice resistance long enough, it will become second nature. Though we live in a world that seems to profit from our unhealthy habits, we don’t have to keep fueling that machine with our poor choices.
We have the power within us to choose what we feed our minds, bodies, and souls, and though it seems impossible to rise above at times, we can persevere with practice, consistency, and compassion towards ourselves. Yes, life is short, and you should eat the cake and drink the wine, but remember: everything in moderation!