5 Ways to Strengthen Your Willpower
When people hear the word “willpower,” there’s potential for different reactions. Some people think they generally have a lot of it, others feel as if they have none, and still others find themselves somewhere in between on any given day. While there is a common misconception that willpower is something you’re born with, it turns out that you actually have quite a bit of control over how to use willpower to your greatest advantage.
The American Psychological Association describes willpower as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.” Willpower is your ability to self-regulate, and in one form or another, you are using it every single day. Each time you resist a cookie or head to the gym instead of sleeping in, you are working your system’s ability to override your desire for instant gratification.
Scientists have likened willpower to a muscle that can be strengthened over time—the more you use it, the stronger it gets. However, just like physical muscles, the willpower muscle can also be fatigued if overused. Over the course of the day, each act of resistance over temptation actually lowers the chance you will resist the next tempting encounter. If this is the case, then, you need to understand how you can use what you know about willpower to conserve it, amplify it, and use it to your greatest benefit.
Here are five ways to strengthen your willpower:
If you only have a certain allotment of willpower on any given day, it makes sense to avoid temptation in the first place, so as not to use it all up too soon. If you’re trying to eat healthier, don’t buy junk food in the first place. If you want to drink less alcohol, don’t hang around at bars. If you need to write a report, temporarily turn off your internet access so you don’t have to resist the urge to check your email or Facebook. In other words, if you can curate your day to save up your willpower, you will automatically feel like you have more of it.
Have a Plan
It would be impossible to avoid temptation all together, so having a plan for when you’re faced with tempting situations will help to take the mental work out of the equation. Psychologists suggest a technique called “implementation intention” in the form of “if-then” statements. For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, you might tell yourself, “If I feel the urge to smoke, then I will chew a piece of gum.” Rather than engaging in the internal struggle every time you’re faced with the impulse to smoke, you simply go for the gum in your purse because you’ve planned ahead.