Inspiration

12 Tips to Fortify your Willpower

“Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens to the which our wills are gardeners.” ~ William Shakespeare, Othello
Written by Archana Kapoor
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Rosemary was an amazing girl; well-spoken, well-mannered and good looking too; but very wary of her (so she thought) imperfections. She worked hard at her job to save up a lot of money, and desired to be loved and appreciated by everyone. She thought that by stacking up money, acquiring good status in her professional life and shaping her more than perfect curves, she would feel worthy of self-love. She did not realise that no matter how much money she spent or saved, how many promotions she got or however shapely she became, it would never be enough. The target would keep changing and the nagging feeling of being imperfect wuld return. Even if people did look up to her and shower their attention, she would still look down upon her imperfections; because our minds are haunted by chattering beliefs that repeat: “I am unlovable, wrong and not good enough”. As for Rosemary, she did believe that her life could improve if she had a little more of that mysterious thing called ‘willpower.’

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Unless we are one of these ‘I know it all’ rather than “ I am humble’ types, during the darkest and toughest phases in life, we all need help to get through our challenging moments; those silent pauses that make us think we are alone. Just like Rosemary! And that’s when our willpower must come into play, to rescue us from the nightmares in which our insecurities have imprisoned us. We need to get out of the ‘loser’ state that our weaknesses want us to remain in as we watch opportunities holding hands with life, running in front of us wearing a new pair of running shoes. Wouldn’t you like to change something within you to overcome anxiety and that lousy feeling of being low? The desire to develop oneself and to strive towards advancement are part of human nature. However, since old habits die hard, sometimes they can be very hard to break and we fail more often than we succeed. We struggle to end the commitments that we cannot sustain anymore; and that’s when we know, our willpower needs solid fortification.

What is willpower?

Willpower can be defined as determination, self-control, resolve, self-discipline and drive. In layman terms it is the ability and the capacity to discard unwanted thoughts, feelings and impulses. When someone is in a position to determine the best course of action regardless of his desires, the person exhibits willpower and self-discipline. The talent to resist short term temptation in order to achieve long term goals is exhibiting the strength of mind. It is a muscle in the body that can be strengthened with practice to achieve positive results by making appropriate changes in your life. But if it is a muscle that can be fortified, it also means that it depletes with fatigue. We all exert willpower every day in some form or the other and it can get fatigued with overuse. Hence it is important to fortify it.

Research proves that there are ways to boost and improve willpower to ensure that it doesn’t get to a stage of permanent damage and complete fatigue. Here are some tips to enhance willpower and lead a better life.

  1. Eat wisely: Each day we make decisions to resist impulses in order to lead a healthier, happier life. We resist the temptation to eat unhealthy, drag ourselves to the gymnasium, cut down on alcohol. In all these decisions we do expend a lot of willpower, and to ensure that we regain what we have lost, it is imperative to eat well. Unhealthy food, toxic substances and skipping meals reduces our self-awareness, impairs our judgment and hinders our willpower in a big way. Be mindful of feeding your brain and fuelling your body with regular rich and nourishing meals before making important decisions. Dieters who aim to maintain willpower while cutting calories, may do better by eating frequent small meals rather than skipping breakfast or lunch!
  2. Meditate: people often blame bad moods for ‘emotional eating’, they have mood swings and end up making wrong decisions because of that. Meditation helps gaining mindfulness. Practicing meditation for 10 – 15 minutes on a daily basis enables the brain to have better memory, attention and focus. For this reason, it is essential to detach ourselves from the chaos around us for a few minutes, reduces our stress and impulsive tendencies. Meditation and mindfulness generate the energy needed to strengthen our willpower and also enhance positive vibes around us.
  3. Slow down: Unfortunately, we are all in a rat race and don’t know when to stop. A few days back I had written a Haiku on learnings from the snail – Live, don’t just exist! This is something we have forgotten to do and because it is so difficult to exercise self-control at all time, it is vital to supplement yourself with sleep, rest and timely breaks. To feel refreshed before getting back to your goals and to have more willpower to accomplish your tasks, get an adequate amount of sleep and take frequent breaks. Doing this, will improve your brain function and self-control and aid you in not running out of willpower and being stuck with poor decisions.
  4. Spend wisely: Just as unhealthy food choices have become ubiquitous, so too have opportunities for impulse spending. These days ATMs are everywhere, and online shopping means you can burn through your savings without ever leaving the house. This may come as a surprise, but as in other areas of life, from overeating to resisting alcohol, people’s purchasing behaviour is also subject to willpower depletion. Willpower strength is also run down by difficult financial decision-making. Research findings also suggest that people at the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum may be particularly vulnerable to a breakdown of their willpower resources. It’s not that the poor have less willpower than the rich; but for people living in poverty, every decision however miniscule it may be requires self-control, and dips into their limited pool of willpower. Infact to score on this one, following the first three points is very important.
  5. Implementation intention: Self-control is crucial for strengthening will power. A helpful tactic for improving self-control is a technique that psychologists refer to as ‘implementation intention’ which means making use of ‘if-then’ statements. These statements help people plan for situations that are likely to hinder their resolve. For example, someone who seriously wants to reduce her alcohol intake might tell herself before a party, “If anyone offers me a drink, then I’ll ask for fresh lime soda.” Apparently, this technique helps improve willpower and determination even if it has already depleted in a big way. Having a plan in place ahead of time may allow you to make decisions in the moment without having to draw on your willpower and expend it unnecessarily.
  6. Self-talk: Your body listens to the words you tell yourself and then acts on them, because of its inherent internal belief in itself. That’s why repetitive self-talk is a great way to generate willpower. Like a muscle, willpower becomes stronger with the persistent practice of self-restraint and self-reliance. The effects of willpower depletion can be mitigated by positive moods, beliefs and attitudes generated by self-talk.
  7. Motivation: With the right motivation, you may be able to persevere even when your willpower strength has been depleted. It is good to listen to or read inspirational speeches and stories from speakers and writers that you feel connected to, every day. Motivation, spirit and discipline lies in being inspired. Inspiration awakens your authentic self. Your unique talents and passions are gifts to share with others and at the same time, you replenish your willpower. This is a harmonious and beneficial cycle that you should aspire to maintain.
  8. Exercise: People who work out regularly and are physically active are better at exercising self-control than those who do not believe in keeping fit. Usually people who are physically fit eat healthier food, monitor their spending more carefully, improve their study habits, drink and smoke less. Regularly exercising willpower with physical exercise leads to better willpower in nearly all areas of life.
  9. Say hello to nature: It is essential to spend time wandering, moving, breathing and sensing nature. Nature allows life’s powerful energies to flow through you and fill you up with transformative and positive forces that aid in healing your cracks and fuelling your growth.
  10. Focus on a single goal: Many a times because being depleted in one area can reduce willpower in other spheres, it is more effective to focus on a single goal at a time rather than attacking a list of multiple things at the same time. It helps concentration and accomplishment of the goal.
  11. Identify roadblocks and have a Plan B: When we set ourselves on the pursuit of a new life path, it is wise to anticipate in advance the obstructions that may arise to wedge our original plan. It is always better to be prepared in advance than to be caught unawares. We are all susceptible to temptations. Some are harmless and others helpful but nonetheless it does not hurt to ask yourself: “How am I going to respond to the unexpected?” Even if the unexpected can’t be anticipated, atleast you can pre-determinate your reaction. This simple mental preparation helps strengthen your willpower to overcome any sudden roadblocks.
  12. Be aware of self-sabotage: This is very destructive and can block willpower. To find the courage to stick to your plans be mindful of your automatic responses, make progress in small doses and remind yourself often of your goal, its purpose, what will happen to your emotional state if you quit, etc.  [and now one bonus one – which connects every other together!]
  13. Trust yourself: Go by your gut. More often than not, we instinctively know what we should do, and yet we doubt that silent inner voice that speaks to us. Many people also call it intuition or divine guidance. Irrespective of what it is called and wherever it comes from; an internal or external source, in times of tiring mental self-analysis, your silent voice deserves not only to be listened to but also to be consulted.

Often following simple routines in life serve us in better stead than making big plans which may be difficult to follow. To me, it isn’t too challenging to strengthen my will power especially when times are tough. The little things in life go a long way. What do you think?

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Featured pic: Flickr

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About the author

Archana Kapoor

Banker turned Blogger, INSEAD Alumnus; life manifested in its complete liveliness is Archana. Looking at every aspect of life with a twinkle in her eye, she then garnishes things around her with something special. Check out for yourself in her amazing writing.

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