Where Is Your Willpower?

February 3, 2015

 

MANY people believe they could improve their lives if they had something called willpower.

 

With more willpower we would eat more leafy greens, exercise daily, avoid drugs and alcohol, go on fabulous holidays with all the money we save and achieve all sorts of wonderful things for ourselves.

 

Often the reason that many of us are not doing these amazing things is because of lack of willpower. We badly want things, yet, we don’t have the willpower to get them.

 

Willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations to meet long-term goals. You might have heard of some other terms for willpower including self-control, drive, determination and self-discipline. Some of us have a lot of it, some of us, not much. Willpower is that feeling you get when you push yourself to get up early to exercise, when you resist another piece of cake or when you say no to that extra chip.

 

For me, willpower is the ability to walk right passed a shoe store and not go in.

 

Where are you with the willpower in your life? Have you got any long-term goals that you have your eye on that require practising some delayed gratification? Difficult?

 

We want to lose a few kilos before spring and are determined to do it, but man that pizza looks good. Short term temptation: one. Long-term goal: zero.

 

Lack of willpower is often reported as the most significant barrier to change.

It is not the sole part of successful behaviour change, but it is a major component. It’s up there with motivation and goal setting. So it makes sense to learn how to increase it.

 

So here goes. Recent research states that willpower can be strengthened with practice. Yes, exercise it like you would a muscle. You wouldn’t start with the heavy weights first would you?

 

Start with easy-ish exercises first. Like, for the first week, practice cleaning up the dinner dishes straight after dinner before sitting in front of TV, or even practice not looking at Facebook for a whole day (terrifying for some I know).

 

Anticipate your roadblocks. Plan for moments of low self-control, where you know you could possibly slip up. So for example, perhaps eat lunch before doing the food shopping. In my case, don’t go to nice shopping centres. Stick to the non-aesthetically pleasing ones to do your food shopping, thereby reducing the temptation to “trip over” a new pair of shoes.

Know your weaknesses intimately.

 

Remind yourself of what you are giving up when you procrastinate. Visualise where you want to get to and what it will mean to you. Is it a healthier body? Is it a holiday to Fiji? If you get tempted off the path to your long-term goal, think of what you are going to miss out on. Visualise that holiday to Fiji to help you reach your goals.

 

Check your social circle. Willpower has been shown to be contagious. So try and hang around with people that have either achieved your long-term goal or are on the path ahead of you to achieving it. There is a saying that we are often the average of the people we spend most of our time with, so this includes our high (or low) willpowered buddies. They rub off on us.

 

Finally, reward yourself for small moments of willpower. When you achieve something due to massive self discipline, then give yourself a pat on the back.

 

No one keeps repeating a behaviour if they haven’t been positively reinforced for doing it. You did a work out? Then go and have a relaxing bath for 30 minutes or treat yourself to a movie.

 

Don’t wait for willpower to miraculously appear within you, as you may be waiting a long time. You need to build it yourself.

 

So, how badly do you want it?

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