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15 Things You Need to Know About Willpower

How to develop willpower.

Do you feel you don’t have enough willpower?

You’re not alone.  Almost everyone feels they lack self-control.  And feelings of hopelessness when it comes to personal resolve have only intensified because temptations have multiplied in modern times and dog us at every turn.

In their New York Times bestseller, Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (affiliate link), Roy Baumeister and John Tierney reveal that one-fourth of our waking hours are spent resisting urges.  That puts our personal struggle with self-control into perspective, doesn’t it?

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?  Here are 15 things:

It's not impossible to develop willpower if you know the science behind it. These 15 facts on willpower and 10 tips for putting them into action will make a huge difference in your life. #willpower #selfcontrol #selfdiscipline #habits #goals #resolutions

  1. Willpower is finite.  There is not an endless supply; it must be replenished.
  2. You use the same reservoir of willpower for different things.
  3. Self-control is like a muscle. It can become fatigued by overuse, but it can also be strengthened on the long term through exercise.
  4. Strengthening your self-control in one area has a spillover effect on other areas of your life.
  5. When you exercise willpower it becomes stronger so it is less easily depleted.
  6. The first step in self-control is to set a goal.
  7. Orderly habits like neatness can improve overall self-control.
  8. Glucose is the fuel behind willpower.
  9. Mental work uses glucose, the crucial compound of willpower.
  10. Decision making depletes your willpower.
  11. When your willpower is depleted, you are less able to make decisions, experiencing what is called “decision fatigue”.
  12. Decision fatigue leaves us more vulnerable to marketers.
  13. People with strong self-control spend less time resisting desires than others.
  14. Developing good habits and routines enhances self-control.
  15. 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?

10 Essential Tips for Developing Willpower

Baumeister and Tierney translate the science of willpower into 10 tips to help you increase self-control:

  1. Know your limits
  2. Watch for symptoms of depletion of your willpower
  3. Pick your battles
  4. Make a to-do list
  5. Beware of underestimating the time needed for a task
  6. Don’t forget the basics like a good diet and sleep
  7. Use positive procrastination
  8. Focus on one thing and one thing only, nothing else
  9. Keep track, monitoring your progress
  10. Reward yourself often

Most of us are incredibly hard on ourselves when we fail at new habits or fall short of our goals.  But it doesn’t help to reprimand ourselves, does it?  Now that you know the science behind self-control, you can craft your own program for cultivating greater restraint.

How to Put These Willpower Tips Into Action

You could also use these 10 tips as a way to assess your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to self-possession.  Once you know where you need to work, start small by putting one of these tips in place.  Once that’s accomplished, build from there by adding another.

There’s a very good reason to focus on willpower:  happiness. According to Baumeister and Tierney, there are two personal qualities that predict positive outcomes in life:  intelligence and willpower.  Intelligence is inborn but willpower can be developed.

So don’t give up on yourself or your dreams just because you break a resolution and lag behind on your goals.  Use these principles to develop a relaxed rhythm of momentum and make your goals happen.

P. S. You might also want to read this:  How to Fight Distraction and Make Your Goals Happen.

Source:  Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (affiliate link)

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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8 Comments

  1. The definition of “decision fatigue” is interesting. I agree that having a strong center with willpower renders us less vulnerable to marketers! Keeping to a relaxed rhythm of momentums sounds great to me!

  2. Thank you for the information about willpower, and it being finite. I think many people don’t know that. It’s a serotonin-dependent process. Anything that boosts serotonin will help increase willpower and habit formation. When we know the science, we can help ourselves better. Thanks!

    • Thanks for adding this information about serotonin. I tend to be low in serotonin so that’s especially interesting to me. Yes, I agree, Debbie, I think most people have no idea that willpower is finite. If we can educate ourselves on these things, we can stop blaming ourselves too!

  3. Cool article Sandra. I’ve long since felt that willpower is a tool designed for inner work. Such as training our mind to think along the lines we want. And that if imagination and willpower are in conflict, imagination will be the winner. So using both of them for the same purpose seems to me to be the way to go.

    • I like that, Elle. Yes, willpower isn’t just about accomplishing things for material gain. We need on our spiritual path too. I so agree.

  4. Positive procrastination is a new one for me, I must look into that I think single focus is a big part of moving forward too. Thanks Debbie for the info on seratonin

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