As I mentioned in my previous article, in order to succeed in life you must train and strengthen your willpower.
Willpower allows you to curb short-term temptations and desires, and to delay gratification in order to reach your long-term results.
Willpower doesn’t simply mean being able to say NO to temptations when our body and mind scream YES.
Willpower is also the ability to say YES to all those things that you hate doing but you know will get you closer to your destination.
These abilities separate you from where you are now and where you want to be.
Willpower is the driving force propelling you towards your target.
Like a muscle, it can be scaled up over time.
When it is used throughout the day it depletes its strength and energy.
However, if you use your muscles wisely, using and resting them, in time they get stronger.
This is also true for willpower!
Willpower loss happens to all of us on a daily basis.
Studies show that curbing repeated temptations and saying YES to what you don’t like doing take a mental toll.
Whether you turn down your mother’s favorite sweet, forgo a beer with your friends, or drag yourself out of bed early in the morning to do the f*cking workout you hate, your willpower is continuously tested.
Everything you engage with implies a certain amount of willpower.
The more things are going on in your life, the more you need to summon your willpower in order to follow through.
The problem is that the amount of willpower is limited!
That’s why when we have almost run out of it and temptation comes along or we should do something we hate we are likely to give in.
That’s also why we must be really careful about engaging in too many activities at a time.
Having multiple goals at a time can be really dangerous because it requires a reasonable amount of willpower for each goal we set.
For instance, if you want to change four different aspects of your life, e.g. wealth, relationships, health, education, each time you put willpower into pursuing one goal, you are taking away the energy necessary to pursue the other goals.
When you set yourself up to too many things, you end up doing nothing properly, because you are not training your willpower muscle wisely.
You are not giving it the time to rest, recover and strengthen.
Just think for a moment, how often did you set too many goals at a time and succeed in all of them?
If you are anything like me, probably never.
Every time I set many goals I miserably fail.
That's normal because we are not machines, and human beings tend to save energy in order to survive.
A survival instinct is ingrained in our DNA, so when we feel worn out we give up on whatever we are trying to accomplish.
So it’s best to pick one goal at a time, accomplish it, and then move on to the next.
In doing so you have the right amount of willpower to breakthrough.
What’s more, succeeding in one goal strengthens your willpower muscle.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will”. - Mahatma Gandhi
6 WAYS TO TRAIN YOUR WILLPOWER
Most of the choices we make throughout the day occur on autopilot; that’s the rub!
When we are not aware of what we are doing and why; our decisions are driven by our instinct.
When we run on autopilot we are most likely to make choices that produce short-term gratification rather than getting us closer to our long-term goals.
What you can do in order to become more self-aware is to ask you questions such as:
- ”Is what I am doing getting me closer to what I really want in my life”?
- ”Why am I behaving in this way even if I don’t get any results”?
- ”Why am I feeling this way, which kind of thoughts have I been focusing on”?
The above three questions are just examples that I use myself, but you can definitely find others that can boost your self-awareness.
When you are tempted by something you can also repeat to yourself: “I am noticing that I am considering yielding to temptation”.
This exercise gives you a little bit of space/time between the “stimulus” and your impulsive reaction.
You get control over the choices you are going to make and you are no longer at the mercy of your cravings.
Another way you can increase your self-awareness and, in so doing, strengthen your willpower is to track the most important decisions you take in a day.
In the evening you can then assess the choices you made and spot the ones that sustain your long-term goals and the ones that get in the way.
You are also able to identify the unproductive autopilot choices and replace them with more efficient ones.
If you are anything like me, you may have already done something good and then indulged in something bad.
You may have gone to the gym and then you may have overeaten immediately afterward.
You may have worked extra hours to find yourself spending everything on useless things.
Do you get my point?
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. - Aristotle
Committing to doing any sort of exercise on a daily basis requires willpower.
So, that’s a very good way to train it!
What you have to make sure about is that you take ONE STEP A DAY.
Most people set themselves up for doing really intensive workouts when they are couch potatoes.
They work their ass off for a few days and then they run out of their willpower and so they give up.
This happens because of the enormous gap between their present situations and their expectations.
A way to avoid this is to break down your expectations into smaller more doable tasks that in time can lead you to scale up your willpower and reach whatever goal you might set.
It all boils down to being cautious when you start any form of exercise.
You might wonder: “Which is the best exercise I can start doing in order to increase my willpower”?
It doesn’t matter if you like going to the gym, running, practising yoga, or something else; any sort of exercise can make your body and mind more resilient to stress, which is a great boost to your willpower.
Practising meditation for a few minutes each day can actually boost willpower by increasing your grey matter in areas of the brain that regulate emotions and oversee decision-making.
To start meditating you can just sit in a chair, close your eyes and breathe for five minutes, ignoring distractions and keeping still.
Do it each day and your willpower will skyrocket.
If you are anything like me, you might think: “Is five minutes enough to build willpower up”?
I thought it was too little, but with all the destructions we have nowadays, devoting five minutes to simply breathing can be a big challenge.
4)SLEEP AT LEAST 6 HOURS PER NIGHT
Sleep provides the mental energy needed to have willpower throughout the day.
Lack of sleep can become chronic stress that undermines how the body and brain use energy.
When you sleep less than 6 hours a day the prefrontal cortex of the brain is hard hit and so it can be damaged; as a result, it loses control over the regions of the brain that create cravings and the stress response.
So you are most likely to incur impulse control problems and just run on autopilot doing things that take you farther from your goals.
Sleeping enough has also been shown to help people resist the urge to eat unhealthy food.
5)EAT HEALTHY FOOD
I guess you have already come across the saying: “You are what you eat”.
The nutrients we get from the food we eat determine the energy we have at our disposal.
Our brain works primarily thanks to glucose.
So we must make sure to keep the glucose levels steady.
In the case of Glycopenia, which is a shortage of glucose, our brain can be damaged and as a result, also our willpower can be drastically compromised.
Eating whole food regularly and avoiding refined sugars allows you to keep the sugar level constant, and therefore, be better equipped when it comes to willpower.
A trick that you can use in order to eat healthy on a regular basis is to keep a food diary.
Keeping track of what you eat implies practising your willpower too.
6)KEEP SOMETHING TEMPTING AT HAND
Having something that tempts you at hand is a great exercise to train your willpower.
Anytime you force yourself to say NO to your temptations you are building your willpower muscle.
After a while, you will notice that what was once your biggest temptation has become irrelevant to you.
By continuously saying NO you increase your ability to curb any other temptations and to ignore distractions that keep you far away from your target.
As I mentioned above, saying NO is not sufficient to develop your willpower.
You MUST learn to say YES to the activities you hate doing.
You can start to tackle this challenge by writing down all the activities you know you must do in a notebook.
Writing them down gives precise instructions to your brain, and by reading them repeatedly through the day you are going to be pulled towards your goals.
We have seen that willpower is like a muscle, it can be trained, but it can also be depleted.
You should start taking one step a day and gradually build your willpower muscle up.
If you start adding one of the above practices at a time to your routine you will be on your way to becoming more self-disciplined.
Over time you will be surprised how easy it has become for you to say NO to things that previously you couldn’t do without, and how willing to say YES to things you struggled with in the past you have become.
I am looking forward to hearing how you get on with training your willpower and which of the above ways to train willpower work best for you, and if you have any other strategies to put in place to strengthen the key ingredient for success.
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2 thoughts on “HOW TO SUCCEED: TRAIN YOUR WILLPOWER MUSCLE”
I think you’re right about taking that first step! I have often found that action comes before inspiration. It’s common to adopt the attitude that I’ll start this task (be it go to the gym, start this book etc.) once I’m in the right headspace, but actually such an approach can mean we keep waiting and waiting. Once I start, I get into the activity, and find that I really do want to keep doing it!
Thanks, Bruno! As you pinpointed, way too often when we wait to be in the “right headspace” we end up procrastinating, and even worse, we never start anything. On the contrary, when we take the first step, then moving forward becomes easier and more fun.