How to Develop Willpower
A young lad would come to school early morning each day to start the fire in the pot-bellied coal stove to keep the classroom warm. On one unfortunate morning, his classmates arrived to find the premises in flames, his peers managed to drag the unconscious little boy out and took him to the nearby county hospital.
The fire had damaged the lower half of his body and burnt all the muscles. The semi-conscious boy overheard the doctor communicating to his mother that chances of survival were minimal and that he might have to spend the rest of his life as an amputee.
Our young boy wanted to live and live longer. To the surprise of the caregivers, he survived. With the mortal danger behind him, he realized that he had lost motor ability below his waist.
His days kept him confined to the wheelchair and nights on the bed. One sunny morning, he threw himself off the wheelchair, pulled himself across the grassy lawn to the picket fence, took support from them, and raised himself. This continued exercise helped him develop signs of vitality in the otherwise lifeless legs.
From dragging to limping to walking to running, he had re-discovered life in his legs. Nothing would give him more joy than experiencing life in his leg. He started to sprint during his school days, and his talent started showing results. At the tender age of 12, he surpassed all the high-school athletes and made it to the school track team. Running records kept flying in as he kept on his practice. One of his memorable runs was on June 16, 1934, Glenn Cunningham ran the mile in 4:06.8 minutes, breaking the world record. He’d be known as the Iron Man of Kansas.
His story is that of grit and joy. Honest desire backed by an iron will make the toughest of roads appear a highway. You can read more about him in his book Never Quit.
(Image Source : Kansas Historical Society)
This post is a continuation of our series on enhancing willpower, where we bring in actionable advice for you to work on your will. Let us hear what experts have to offer this time.
“To enhance your willpower, you must first be working towards a meaningful goal. If the goal is not important to you then all the amount of willpower in the world will not get you there.
One of two things will likely happen if you have a goal that you don’t want. One, you will give up before too long. Two, you will reach the goal, but the journey will be exhausting and unenjoyable. Life is too short to live in either of those states. Hence, aim for something you want!
Once you’ve chosen a goal that you want to work towards, the next steps are to discover the WHY behind the goal. Understanding the WHY will keep you motivated. Follow these steps:
Write down your goal on a piece of paper.
Under the goal, write down why you want that goal. For example, if your goal is to lose weight then the ‘why’ under it might be to have a healthier body.
On the next line, write why you want that. You might say, I want a healthier body because I will experience fewer aches & pains, or I will have more energy.
Then indicate why you want that. For example, I want to have more energy because I will move around more and when I’m active, I have a better state of mind.
Again, ask yourself why you want that. The answer might be, that I want a better state of mind because I’m tired of feeling sad and I want to feel happier more often.
Once you have drilled down four times by asking why, then ask yourself, “What will achieving this goal help me FEEL?” Using the example above, the answer might be, When I achieve this goal, I will feel happier more often! It will help me feel more energetic and I will have an overall better state of mind.
Knowing how it will feel when you achieve your goal is a huge motivating factor. Picture yourself achieving your goal and pay attention to how it will feel when you achieve it. Keep these two things in mind and you will have the willpower needed to succeed.”
" Manage stress levels: Focusing on the breath, mindfulness practices such as meditation when we feel increasing levels of stress.
Lead a more active lifestyle: Exercise can build resilience to stress and boost willpower whether it be regular physical exercises such as cardio work or more gentle like yoga or Thai chi.
Eat healthily: A healthy well-balanced nutritional diet keeps us energized and active.
Avoid taking on too much at once: it is more advisable to take on any challenge in parts, schedule a realistic time frame that does not burn you out.
Avoid limiting yourself based on limited beliefs or past failures: Rather focus on the now and rise to the occasion.
Lack of sleep can lead to a depletion in mental awareness and energy levels: make sure you have a regular sleep pattern."
“What makes the person effective is Will + Skill
If you are skillful that means you have all the necessary knowledge and awareness to do things. If you have a Will that means you have the desire to do.
The absence of one will lead to procrastination- complaining - blame games
Lack of skill can be trained as you can attend workshops etc
However, lack of Will can come from fear of the unknown, and fear of taking decisions, to develop willpower is asking Yourself whenever you feel stuck what do I want? Do I want it? how do I know I want it? what do I need to do now to achieve it?
Skill questions can be: what knowledge do I have to achieve it? What resources do I have to achieve it?
Once all of it is done, avoid getting caught in the blame game of why I am not able to do it?”
“Willpower is not limitless and the more you a called to exercise it throughout your day the more challenging it gets, so forming a powerful habit of doing the hard things at the start of the day is a must, firstly because it’s when your willpower is at its highest, and secondly when something is a habit it takes less willpower leaving more for the challenges arise throughout your day.
One thing not to do is place yourself unnecessarily in situations where you are likely to give in, example if you are addicted to donuts and go try work on your laptop next to Kristy kreams on an empty stomach, you’ll likely fail, and the more you give in the more disheartening it is and the weaker your willpower becomes. always start by setting yourself small challenges you can win, and like growing a muscle, as your willpower grows you can take on greater challenges.”
“Meditation— Research shows that after just 2-3 days of practicing meditation for 10 minutes, your brain will be able to focus better, you will have more energy, and you will be less stressed.
Use Your Opposite Hand— One that worked particularly well was to use your opposite hand. Your brain is wired to use your dominant hand, so it takes willpower to use the opposite.
Be More Mindful of Your Automatic Decisions— To get started, try to catch yourself in an automatic behavior and ask yourself why you are doing it.
Pick a task every day— Let loose your comfort zone & practice task building physical/ mental.”
“We can enhance our willpower, by rewarding ourselves at intervals after performing a task or reaching a goal which we had visualized earlier. We have to work on goal setting and be optimistic.
We don’t have to criticize ourselves, and not be over-ambitious. Step by step progress is important for improving. Will power is something that doesn’t happen suddenly, it is a process of patience.”
“Slow down to become present at the moment to make important and best choices and to set strong and purposeful intentions in any area of life. This creates your reality of what it is you want and how best to achieve it.
Don’t be undisciplined and indecisive in choices and intentions as they dilute the strength of determination and certainty of achievement.”
“To increase willpower, connect with the reason you are doing this task. Clearly understanding exactly how this task will help you – and also understanding what bad outcomes might happen if you avoid the task, will make it easy to achieve it. The problem comes in when we are doing tasks because others have told us to, or we think we “should,” but we aren’t understanding the direct cause-and-effect benefit of doing the task. We can feel like, “I know I should do this, but I just don’t want to,” and then endlessly procrastinate.
For example, maybe a family member tells you to keep your house cleaner. You don’t want to bother and feel resentment and annoyance when you think about cleaning. However, if you think it through, and list all the benefits for yourself of having a clean house– perhaps getting to enjoy your own house fully, having others over for dinner or parties, not being embarrassed if a friend drops by unexpectedly – as well as the possible bad outcomes for keeping things a mess: mold growing on dishes, attracting bugs and having to pay for an exterminator, not being able to find important items, it will be easy to see how this benefits you directly, regardless of the opinions of others.
When you feel a clear connection with a good outcome for yourself, as well as avoiding bad outcomes, it’s very easy to do that cleaning. The same applies to work, starting a business, friendships, and relationships. Often, we just haven’t yet thought about the cause-and-effect outcomes of various actions, and this makes it hard to find motivation.
Another example is let’s say you run a small business and do the cleaning yourself in the office because you are still struggling financially. You know you should empty your trash can full of papers at the end of the day, but you feel lazy and don’t want to. You let the bin overflow, and your employees notice this, and also don’t empty their trash cans either. Then, a potential investor shows up one day, and while on an office tour, notices the overflowing bins. The investor wonders if the business is not being run well, since they don’t even have time to empty their trash cans and questions if there are workflow problems. They decide not to invest.
This is just one example of a bad possible outcome. Keeping these possibilities in mind makes it a lot easier to find the motivation to empty all of the trash bins. On the flip side, if the office is sparkling clean when potential investors or clients drop by, they will likely get a positive impression and be more likely to want to work together.
The excitement of growing the business (and no longer struggling financially) can motivate you to do this otherwise boring task that seems unimportant and mundane.
I used the example of cleaning above, but the same is true for any task. Whether it is an excel spreadsheet for a business you are building that you are putting off, proofreading an essay for school, running errands, keeping a promise to a friend or family member, researching recipes to start cooking healthy meals, exercising – in any area of your life, a boring task becomes important and meaningful the minute you understand the potential benefits to yourself as well as the potential bad outcomes you want to avoid.”
“Realise that there is no need for willpower if you focus on the identity associated with whatever it is that you are trying to do. An example- I tried to use willpower for 17 years to lose my excess weight, but failed miserably. When I stepped into the identity of the Lean, Strong 45-year-old man. I lost 16 kg in 16 weeks and NEVER looked back. It was more than 4 years back.
Don’t focus on behavioral changes. It would be superficial and it would be like an elastic. It will go back to the older style the moment the external or internal motivation disappears.”
“Here’s what I would say about having better willpower:
Don’t rely solely on willpower to achieve your goals. There will be days when you won’t “feel like it,” you’re tired or you have too much stress.
To support your goals when you don’t have willpower, make sure you have physical and mental environments that support you when you are struggling.
For example: ✅ do you have good habits that you do automatically no matter what? ✅ do you take the time to look at how you are thinking about a goal, and whether those thoughts support that goal? ✅ do you have people in your life that cheer you on? ✅ are your notifications turned “off” when you are trying to complete a project?”
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