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The Surprising Truth About Willpower

October 06, 2022 3 min read

The Surprising Truth About Willpower

How important is willpower? Some self-help books will tell you that it’s essential for reaching your goals. Others will say it’s overrated. Even scientific research on the subject has led to different conclusions.

On the one hand, there's a lot to be said for managing your emotions and controlling your impulses. There are also many situations that require something different than sheer willpower.

For example, you might be able to quit smoking cold turkey. You might also give up cigarettes faster and much more comfortably if you use other methods, like nicotine replacement devices.

Learn more about the benefits and limitations of willpower.

How to Boost Your Willpower:

1. Practice regularly.

You may have heard that willpower is finite and will run out if you try to rely on it too much. In reality, it’s more like a muscle that grows stronger with use, as long as you avoid overdoing it.

2. Stay fit.

It’s easier to control yourself when you take care of your overall wellbeing. Eat a nutritious diet, work out consistently, and sleep well.

3. Be specific.

Make your resolutions clear. Break big goals down into concrete steps. For example, losing weight could mean eating more vegetables and shrinking portion sizes.

4. Anticipate obstacles.

What if you relapse? Figure out your triggers and how to deal with them. Be patient and treat yourself with compassion.

5. Remember your purpose.

Think about the reasons behind what you’re doing. Maybe you’re trying to lower your blood pressure or provide for your family.

The Surprising Truth About Willpower 2

6. Work on timing.

Stress can weaken your determination. You may need to postpone making major changes if you’re in the middle of a divorce or moving to a new home.

7. Start small.

Help yourself to succeed. Focus on one or two areas at a time. Your early victories will build momentum and motivate you to keep making progress.

8. Let go.

There are occasions when quitting is a wise choice. If you’re unable to generate much enthusiasm, you may be trying to conform to external expectations instead of pursuing your own passions.

How to Supplement Your Willpower:

1. Build positive habits.

Make healthy decisions automatic by incorporating them into your daily routines. Order a salad with your sandwich instead of French fries. Go to bed at the same time each night.

2. Change your environment. As much as possible, remove temptations rather than struggling with them.

Keep junk food out of your kitchen or store it on top shelves that are difficult to reach. Cancel some of your streaming subscriptions if your goal is to cut down on screen time.

3. Distract yourself.

You may have noticed that when you try to stop thinking about something, it can wind up taking over your brain. If visions of donuts or cigarettes are dancing through your head, go take a walk or study vocabulary words.

4. Research your options.

Unless you’re stranded on a raft, you probably have access to technology and other tools that can make many tasks easier. Search for helpful apps or talk with others who are dealing with similar situations.

5. Seek support.

Let your family and friends know how they can assist you. If you’re still stuck, consider working with a therapist who specializes in relevant issues. You can ask your primary care doctor for referrals or contact organizations like the American Psychological Association.

Willpower can take you a long way but keep other options in mind too. Sometimes you need more than self-discipline, and sometimes you can achieve the same results with less strain if you take advantage of other available resources and strategies.

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