How to Build Willpower!
It's early in the morning.
Your alarm goes off. Beep, beep, beep.
You open your eyes, feeling groggy and disoriented.
Still half-asleep, you try to figure out what's going on.
Then you remember.
Last night, feeling inspired, you decided to you'd get up early and go for a walk before heading the work.
Ahhhh.....your bed feels so warm and comfy.
You close your eyes and know you have to make a decision.
You can take the easy way out, and go back to sleep...
Or take the highest road and put on your shoes and head out the door.
The choice is yours...and only yours.
What Can Science Tell Us About Willpower?
It’s not impossible to develop great self-command if you understand the science behind self-control and learn the right tricks. So what does science tell us about willpower?
Willpower is finite. There is not an endless supply; it must be replenished.
1. Strengthening your self-control in one area has a spillover effect on other areas of your life.
2. When you exercise willpower it becomes stronger so it is less easily depleted.
3. The first step in self-control is to set a goal.
4. Mental work uses glucose, the crucial compound of willpower.
5. People with good self control use their willpower not to get through emergencies but to avoid them.
From these facts, we can surmise that self-discipline isn’t about force, it’s about intelligence, pacing, and replenishment.
So how do we put this information into action?
5 Essential Tips for Developing Willpower:
1. Eat a Turkey Sandwich
On average, we spend four hours each day actively resisting things we desire. Every time we refuse to succumb—say, by washing the dishes before watching TV or by holding our temper—our bodies draw on our store of glucose, which carries energy to the muscles and brain. When our glucose levels get low, our willpower weakens. To keep it high, eat regular meals that are full of protein and good carbohydrates, like a sandwich of lean meat and cheese packed between two slices of whole-wheat bread. And never start a challenging task on an empty stomach.
2. Anticipate Roadblocks
When you start pursuing a goal, consider what might interfere with your plans. Always assume that glitches will come up and that your motivation may falter when they do. So if you’re trying to cook more, do your food shopping well ahead of time. And make several meals the weekend beforehand, in case you don’t get home in time to prepare dinner. Having a fallback makes it more likely that you’ll accomplish your aims.
3. Do the Opposite of What You Normally Do
Like a muscle, your resolve can be strengthened over time with practice, even if you’re not trying to correct a specific bad habit. Anytime you modify your routine, you’re developing self-control. For example, try to brush your teeth or open doors with your non-dominant hand. Once you’ve succeeded in making a tiny change, you can work toward accomplishing something more substantive.
4. Choose a Reward in Advance
When changing your behavior (like trying to exercise each day), pick something—whether it’s a piece of chocolate or relaxing on the couch for 30 minutes—that you’ll treat yourself to once you’ve accomplished your objective. It could be months before you enjoy exercise on its own merits. So, in the meantime, when you look at your running shoes, you should think, I’m going jogging because I want the prize that is waiting for me when I finish my workout. Placing all your attention on the end goal keeps you from being as focused on the pain or effort of the activity itself.
Has beating yourself up ever helped you stick to a diet or stay within your budget? Probably not. You may even have ended up indulging more. (To wit: People with credit-card debt who are hard on themselves tend to rack up bigger charges than they would have otherwise.) Instead, ask yourself this: When am I likely to err again, and how will I prevent that from happening? Once you’ve figured out how to avoid the problem in the future, let it go.