As Oscar Wilde once said: “I can resist anything except temptation.”
That’s something most of us can relate to. If you’re not one of us, then well done.
For the rest of us, though, there will come a time when we need to ‘not’ do something we want to do. Don’t smoke that cigarette, don’t eat that cake, or skip the soda!
As nice as life is, it is often one long list of temptations that need to be avoided. So what do we do when we are having trouble saying “no” or are fearful of trying something new? We dig deep for the willpower to push us through. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.
To help us out, here are five ways to strengthen our willpower:
1. Plan the outcome
In the words of Greg S. Reid: “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”
There are three critical components of that statement:
Writing it down.
Breaking it down.
We are often guilty of short-term thinking, only seeing what is in front of us. Instead, we should be looking at a bigger picture. So start by writing it down. It will help you become crystal clear about the direction you want to head. Then break it down into manageable parts, so the big goal seems attainable. Then, find the willpower within to take the first step and when you do, your willpower will grow stronger. It’s like a muscle, and it gets better with exercise. So exercise it!
2. Avoid it!
Avoid situations where there is a need to make tough decisions. Tough decisions will deplete willpower fast. For example, a person who wishes to stop drinking would do well to avoid bars for a while. However, hanging out at the juice bar at the gym will help strengthen willpower, because there isn’t a difficult choice to make.
3. Reward yourself.
Yes, when we do good things we like to be rewarded. Collect the money saved from not buying that packet of cigarettes. Collect in a jar and keep it visible. After a period, take the money and splurge on something frivolous like a spa day or new pair of boots. Like any other goals you have written down, focus on them, visualize them and embed that picture in your mind, permanently.
You strengthen your willpower when you remain focused on positive results. Draw on those feelings of success when faced with difficult choices, and you’re more likely to choose wisely.
4. Be accountable.
Accountability partners are a great way to strengthen our willpower because we are more likely to do what we are supposed to do when we have to report back to someone. The added benefit is we get to call on the willpower of our partner when our willpower is lacking. Friends can achieve a lot together; that’s why they’re friends, and everyone can find a friend or a colleague who has similar goals.
Look at it another way; there is a reason that ‘clubs’ are popular, things like gyms, weight watchers, etc. They will keep us honest, grounded, and moving forward. Now, you don’t necessarily need to join a club; just gather a few friends and set up an accountability group.
5. Stay the course.
If there have been times in the past when we have fallen at the feet of temptation, remember those times and gather strength from them. We should never, ever, take our eye off the prize. Think about it; what changed? Was it:
The goal? Unlikely.
The dream holiday? Unlikely.
The dream dress we’re trying to squeeze into? Unlikely.
Any other goal? Unlikely.
Instead, we probably gave in to temptation once, then twice, then three times and soon realized we failed. So we gave up. We will continue to fail until the time we don’t and that time maybe the next time.
Making change is hard. In fact, we are designed to resist change. So it might be unrealistic to think we can get there on the first try. But with each try and a clear focus on the goal, you will build the willpower to keep trying until you get it right.
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Face it, without a little failure we would have no stories to tell or lessons to learn. Think once again about the goal and measure the triumphs one step at a time. When we stay the course, make a plan, avoid situations that will make things more challenging, find some friends, and then reward ourselves for each step, we will soon learn the day of achieving our big goals is closer than we think.