Willpower is a vital ingredient in the recipe of success.
No matter what your goals are, you are going to need guts to make your dreams a reality. Willpower is just a daily commitment toward your goals: it means that you are in it for the long haul and it means that you can say no to instant gratification in order to protect your long term visions.
So we all know dedication and willpower are important, but how do you develop them?
Why do some people unwaveringly decline fun, food, and friends for their priorities while others struggle to turn down seconds on desert?
Willpower is truly something that is built and created, not something inherited at birth. You too can develop willpower and all it takes is a little bit of practice and commitment.
1. Know what you want, why you want it
Willpower and dedication don’t develop quickly, they are personality traits that are forged and grow stronger with each conscious effort to turn something down for the greater good- but it all has to start within yourself.
Willpower starts with desire: desire for change and desire for something better than what you currently have at the moment. Willpower is the ability to say no to what you want now because you desire something more later.
In one study called the Stanford Marshmallow experiment Walter Mischel conducted an experiment with children where they were offered either one marshmallow “now” or two “later”. Some of the children chose to wait for another marshmallow while some simply ate the marshmallow that was initially offered.
Of the children that decided to wait for the second marshmallow, only about 1/3 were successful at waiting for the researcher to return with their promised reward; those that were successful at waiting realized that saying no to one marshmallow now in order to get two marshmallows later was a better deal.
By focusing on the long-term benefits and the potential rewards that would come later, some of the children were able to say no to the instant reward of one marshmallow.
If you have a clear understanding of what you want and why you are doing it, you will have more incentive to stay strong in the moment and make the “right” choice.
2. Start small: Set small goals and get them done
Rather than making your first goal something that will take you years to accomplish, try starting small instead.
Your short term goals should be measurable and should be able to be accomplished quickly (think within a few months tops), then you should start setting daily and weekly goals that will hold you accountable each day.
For instance, rather than just setting a goal to lose 100lbs within a year, you should try setting smaller goals to hold you accountable on a more frequent basis. Try to set the goal of losing 1.5-3lbs per week- or even better going to the gym 5 days per week.
The less you focus on results, and the more you focus on the steps that you can take each day to get the results you want, the more you feel accountable and motivated to continue on.
Not only will you build more confidence and see results sooner by accomplishing smaller goals, but you can begin achieving your goals on week one.
Setting your sites too far ahead in the future can be discouraging at times, so try focusing instead on the small things that you can do today to make your long-term goals come true, which leads us into the next tip…
3. Hold yourself accountable to your daily actions
Will power comes down to consistent daily action.
As you start doing the things you need to do each day to reach your goals, you will also start be able to say no to the things that might distract you from reaching them.
Learning to say no to “negative” influences in your life and learning to say yes to the actions that will make you successful in the long-term will cause you to become more firm in your resolve to meet your goals.
There are many ways to increase your accountability and commitment to your goals on a daily basis: you can create a daily schedule or action plans, you can get accountability partners, you can publicly display what you are working on and what steps you need to take, you can create a self-commitment contract stating that YOU are responsible for your results, or you can even set up a punishment system (like a swear jar) and punish yourself when you fall short of your own expectations.
The more responsible you feel for your own results, the more likely you are to take actions needed to create your own success.
You can either be the victim…or you can be the hero in your story. Be the HERO.
4. Mentally rehearse or practice facing difficult situations
By mentally preparing yourself to face challenging and tempting situations you can better prepare yourself to face them in real life.
Imagine you are building a home; in the process you find some articles talking about problems with foundations being common in your state due to the soil content. You do a little bit of research and find out that there is a simple solution, it just costs a little more.
Eventually during the home building process you run into a problem with the foundation, but because you understand it is a simple fix and just costs a little bit of money you easily fix the problem and don’t get too worked up about it. Because you were AWARE that things could go wrong, you weren’t caught off guard.
Just imagine the same situation, but you never came across the previous information; one day your builder tells you that there is a foundation problem. You might worry for days about the outcome because you weren’t prepared for the news.
The truth is this: if you mentally prepare yourself to face temptation you will be more ready to turn it down.
If you are trying to stick to a diet, imagine situations where it could be difficult to do so: family functions, going out to eat with friends, going to the carnival, etc; by imagining these situations and some of the temptations that come with them you can pre-commit to making the right decision when those temptations show up in real life.
Run through scenarios in your mind that would make it difficult to maintain willpower and then tell yourself “I will do the right thing, even if it gets tough.”
5. Save your willpower muscles for when you really need them
Many psychologists believe that willpower is a lot like a muscles that get fatigued if you work it too much. Walter Mischel (from the marshmallow experiment above) also led some studies that supported the idea that willpower is in a limited supply, and that requiring too much willpower will eventually lead them to breaking down.
The theory works like this: imagine that your entire day is a test of your willpower in some way. Driving through traffic you are tempted to ram your car into the other car that cut you off, at work you are tempted to tell your boss to go to hell, and at dinner you bite your tongue as your in-laws critique your table setting skills. Finally when the day is over you give into temptation and eat a whole tub of ice-cream even though you are on a diet.
Theoretically then by avoiding temptations as much as possible, or by facing the most tempting situations early on in your day you may have higher levels of willpower available to you.
There is no secret to developing will power; you must find something you are passionate about, make goals and hold yourself accountable to their fulfillment, and as you start to see success it gets easier and you can reach farther.
No one is born with the ability to be a disciplined machine, it is something that is learned, over time, step by step.
That is what this website is about: giving you the tools and knowledge that will help YOU make positive changes in your life each day.