Pumping Up Your Willpower

People in general seem to have an overly positive vision of themselves. People have a hard time admitting the one thing they have a real problem with, self-control.

Research shows that people who perceive themselves as having the most willpower actually are the most likely to lose self control when tempted.

For example,  drinkers who are the most optimistic regarding their ability to control their intake are the most likely to fail and overoptimistic  dieters are the least likely to lose weight.

How can we really boost our ability to increase willpower?

1. Develop ” keystone habits“.  A great example is exercise. Exercise seems to lead to other great and even unrelated habits. It tends to lead to better eating habits, improves sleep, stimulates the brain, leads to more productivity, more tolerance and patience. It simply has a “spill over effect”.

2. Leading self-control researcher Roy Baumeister believes that willpower is limited. It is highest early in the day but as we make more decisions it seems to lower as the day progresses. Therefore, he suggests that you do the most important things first. As the day gets longer our self -control and discipline decreases and therefore at night is when you see the most self -control issues ( i.e. late night snacking). Impulsive behaviors are greatest late at night!!!

3. Improve willpower by not depending too much on it. We tend not to use willpower when something is a habit ( automatic behavior). Research suggests that we manipulate our environment so as to make things easy for things we should do and make things hard for those things we shouldn’t do.

Ex: Don’t keep sweets in the house ( when you are trying to lose weight or even worse have blood sugar issues). Put your workout clothes at the end of your bed!

People expose themselves to many temptations when they believe they have a lot of willpower – but eventually give in. So do not rely on willpower.

4. Willpower is like a muscle. When you over use it it fatigues and gives out. But, by exercising it, over time, it get stronger. It is more effective to rely on habits that you build up. You need to tap into your willpower a bit every day. Like building muscular strength – work on it gradually and stimulate it daily, but take some rest days.

5. Eat healthy. Healthy nutrition has far reaching benefits and is a real driver to self-control.

6. Get restorative sleep.  Getting to sleep and awaking at the same time helps to re-balance the brain and body’s biochemistry that has a direct effect on one’s mood, energy and self-control.

7. Postponing self-gratification or deliberate procrastination can also help to build willpower. Research shows the people that tell themselves ” Not know, but later”, is far more powerful than “No, you can’t have that.”  Delay, distraction, or even giving in a defined way can help increase discipline.

8. Giving into temptation is not always the worst thing – it will happen. It is what you do afterwards. Self-blame ( especially in the face of stress and failure) is very defeating and reduces self-control. Showing self compassion actually increases it.

Self-criticism often leads to lowered motivation and research indicates that it can also lead to depression, which drains both “I will” power and “I want” power.

BOTTOM LINE: You are going to make mistakes and that’s ok!!