7 Ways to Harness Your Willpower
According to the American Psychological Association, willpower is the psychological science of self-control. However, while scientific, willpower is hardly logical. More often than not, for instance, the best thing for us is often the most difficult to do. Do all of those times when it would behoove us to get to the gym but we choose Netflix instead ring a bell? What about choosing a scone and latte in the morning instead of a green smoothie and tea? It seems strange that we would naturally choose the actions that worsen our chances of succeeding in this world; alas, that is what often happens. No need to worry! We’ve figured out how to harness your willpower so you can succeed at life and accomplish everything in your dreams. Scroll through and prepare to dominate your life.
It’s been said that geniuses talk to themselves on a regular basis. Albert Einstein, for example, was known to wander around the Princeton University campus mumbling to himself. (A secretary was even hired to tape record his musings.) We bring this up to emphasize the effect of self-encouragement and discussion. If you’re feeling stuck, talk yourself through possible scenarios. Sometimes you just need to verbalize a little self-motivation to get yourself going. We’ve found that talking out loud can unleash ideas and a drive for action that were otherwise dormant.
We love to adhere to SMART goal making. That is to say, we strive to make goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. If you have a general goal like “live a healthier lifestyle” then it is difficult to measure your success. When will you start living healthier? How do you define healthy? The list goes on. If you were to say "I want to finish a half marathon in three months," then you not only have a measurable goal, you have something that you can take small steps toward achieving every day.
Personal boundaries protect you from being reactive and force you to be proactive. If you’re the type of person who automatically replies “yes” to any and every request without thinking about whether or not you can and want to actually do something, start developing your personal boundaries. Your willpower, i.e. your ability to get anything done, is your most valuable asset. If you lack personal boundaries and end up giving away all of your productivity to others, especially when they don’t deserve it, you’re not managing yourself well. Learn to respect your time and commitments as much as you respect those of others.
Being accountable to yourself is hard. You can always trick yourself into making concessions for missing your targets or falling short of your goals. But when you disappoint someone other than yourself the psychological ramifications are much aggressive. If you want to run a marathon, commit to a running buddy. If you want to start a business, have a partner you respect and who you would be devastated to disappoint. Another way to create accountability partners is to post your goals and progress on social media. Posting progress to your network on a regular basis will become an enormous motivating factor on your path to success. What’s more? Positive comments and encouragement from followers and strangers will only boost your efforts.
By this time of year, our New Year’s resolutions have usually dissolved and we’ve resumed our old, not-so-good-for-us habits. Why? A lot of the time it’s because we make an enormous list of all the things we want to change about ourselves and then pledge to change all of them all at once. This is not a realistic plan for success. Instead of trying to accomplish all of your goals at once, focus on one at a time. Like a car, you only have so much gas in your tank. Focus on accomplishing one task or goal before setting your sites on another. This will not only improve your chances of completing that said task, it will also help you train your willpower to go further. Perhaps this week you try to run three times, and next week you try to run three times and make lunch for yourself every day.
According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, heart rate variability (HRV) is directly correlated to willpower. This means, if you maintain a healthily, active lifestyle, you are scientifically better suited to exerting self-control. Dr. McGonigal phrases this situation as such: “The result of maintaining high HRV is acting in line with our highest goals, and not with our immediate appetites.” Get sweating every day and you are sure to align your choices with delayed gratification as opposed to the immediate satisfaction of doing something not so good for you.
A recent study entitled Stress in America found that willpower was the most significant barrier to change for most survey respondents. The good news? Willpower is susceptible to change. Like a muscle, the more you train it, the more your willpower grows. Start small. Say no to that second glass of wine or that next episode on Netflix. If you start saying no to one small indulgence, you’ll slowly gain the strength to harness your willpower for the long term.
Boost your willpower with some of our favorite books below.
Do you have a method for ignoring the temptation of instant gratification? Share with us in the comments.