Willpower is necessary to complete many trying tasks. If you want to lose weight, quit smoking, or achieve certain career goals, willpower is vital. There are ways you can work on increasing your willpower over time. Set goals for yourself, have follow through, and make lifestyle changes to strengthen your resilience.
1Break things down into manageable chunks. If you’re overwhelmed by the enormity of a task, it’s more difficult to succeed. You won’t be able to sustain your willpower if you feel like you’re setting impossibly high standards for yourself. You can increase your willpower by breaking down difficult tasks in small, manageable chunks.
- In her memoir Bird By Bird, writer Anne Lamott describes her brother working on a school report cataloguing different types of birds. Having put off the project to the last minute, her brother felt overwhelmed by the task before her father came, wrapped his arm around the boy’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, Just take it bird by bird.” What this means, of course, is that enormous tasks can be broken down in manageable chunks.
- If you want to get something done and feel overwhelmed, take things bird by bird. If you have a 20 page term paper, promise yourself to write two pages a day in the weeks leading up to the deadline. If you want to lose 40 pounds, set a goal of eight pounds lost per month. If you want to be able to run five miles, use an application like “Couch to 5K” to gradually build your speed and strength over time. When we break big tasks down into small components, they suddenly seem doable.
2Set reasonable deadlines. If you want to increase your willpower, you need to make deadlines for yourself. No one can function without a schedule. Set deadlines that you can reasonably achieve and stick to them.
- If you want to, say, start exercising five days a week and you currently do not work out at all, you’ll burn out in a week going straight to your goal. Instead, set a schedule. Decide to work out two days a week for a week, then move that up to three days, then four days, and then five.
- Keep track of your successes. Invest in a large calendar you can display on the fridge or wall. Write a small note about your success that day on the calendar. For example, on October 3rd write something like, “Ran three miles today.” Seeing your success concretely can help you feel a sense of pride that will motivate you to continue.
3Make a plan. A technique that may help when your willpower is tested is to use an “implementation intention,” or an “If, then” statement to plan for situations in which you might face temptation.
- For example, you may be trying to give up sugar, but you’re going to a birthday party and you know there will be cake there. Make your plan before the party: “If someone offers me a piece of cake, then I will have some of this fruit salad I am bringing instead.”
- Having a plan already in place may reduce strain on your willpower, as you have essentially already made the decision and don’t need to battle your desire for sugar in the moment. This can work even if your self-control has been depleted.
Staying On Task
1Hold yourself accountable. A vital step to increasing your overall willpower is to take some personal accountability. Do so for both your successes and obstacles as you work towards your goals.
- Talking or writing out loud about your actions can help. State what you did, why you did it, and how it made you feel. For example, “”I was feeling stressed about getting my paper done, so I decided to distract myself and watch television instead. I will work on managing my stress better so I can complete my paper so I can get things done instead of feeling lazy and bad about myself.” Conversely, something like, “I wrote two pages of my term paper today because I wanted to stay on task and this makes me feel productive and positive about myself.”
- Laying responsibility solely on yourself requires tremendous honesty. It also increases your ability to manage impulses and “look before you leap,” and your sense of responsibility as you cease blaming external factors on your circumstances. This can help your willpower as you’ll embrace the fact change is within your power.
2Manage negative thoughts. Negative thoughts will inevitably pop up during your journey. You may take one setback to mean you can never change, or you may simply have a voice in your head, chattering away that you won’t succeed, putting you down. If you want to increase willpower, negativity does not help as it makes you feel defeated and hopeless. While it’s impossible to stop negative thoughts completely, you can change how you react and deal with them.
- Keep a record of your negative thoughts. Journaling is beneficial in many ways, and one thing you can do is log the negative thoughts that occur throughout the day. Soon you will be able to identify any patterns in the negative messages and begin to explore their origins.
- When you identify a negative thought, such as “I am not capable of achieving my goals,” question whether or not it is really true. Do this by looking at actual evidence, not just what your negative voice tells you. You can make two columns in your journal, one with evidence “for” the belief, one “against.” In the “For” column, you might write: “I tried to go a month without eating sugar and I couldn’t do it. I feel like I’m not strong enough to change my habit.” In the “Against” column, you might write “When I set smaller, more attainable goals, I can accomplish them. When I take things day-by-day or week-by-week, I have a lot of success. In the past I’ve met goals to finish school, get a raise at work, and quit smoking. It was probably unreasonable to quit sugar cold turkey when I love it so much. I need to try again, maybe using a different method.”
- For a more in depth look at negative thoughts and how manage them, check out the article How to Deal with Negative Thoughts.
Be yourself. This means knowing your limits and setting appropriate goals. If you are trying to quit smoking, for instance, it would of course be great if you could just quit all at once and be done with it. But maybe that’s not you — maybe you still really enjoy smoking and you’ve been doing it for years. Instead of holding yourself to an ideal, i.e. someone who can just drop an addictive habit, maybe you need to slowly taper off instead. In this way you are being true to yourself while also setting yourself up for success by setting goals based on your knowledge of yourself.
4Reward yourself. It’s important to stay on task and take responsibility for your actions. However, it’s also important to know how to reward yourself for good behavior. No one’s willpower is strong enough to keep going without a treat now and then.
- Build up a system of rewards for yourself. If you’re trying to lose weight, for example, promise yourself you can buy one new item of clothing for every week you follow your diet and workout schedule.
- Everyone has their own system that works for them. Find something you enjoy and find a way to treat yourself to it now and then. Working in occasional rewards means you can keep going on your path to your goal longer, resulting in sustained willpower.
Making Lifestyle Changes
1Develop good habits. Stress is a major killer of willpower. When we’re overworked and frustrated, we succumb to behaviors we’d rather work against. By developing good personal habits, we’re more likely to stay on track when stressed.
- Incorporate certain activities, like working out and studying, into your daily routine. This can help combat stress. If activities that take willpower are seen as a necessary part of day-to-day life, like brushing one’s teeth at night, you’re less likely to shirk on those duties when stressed.
- Also, people with good habits are less affected by stress. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and a solid sleep schedule can all help lessen how much stressful life events affect you.
2Do not procrastinate. Procrastination can kill willpower. Putting off duties that are seen as a burden makes us more likely to not do them at all. Avoid procrastination as much as you can if you want to ramp up your willpower.
- Procrastination is often rooted in perfectionism. People tend to put things off as they’re stressed out about not doing them perfectly. Understand delaying work does not actually reduce this stress and can actually heighten it. You’re better off just getting to work despite reservations than ruminating over the task at hand.
3Keep a journal. Journaling can help increase willpower as you can see a log of your progress. Setbacks will feel less harsh when you can look at them in comparison to your achievements. Say you gained five pounds over the holidays. Look back at your journaling from when you started your weight loss journey to remember how far you’ve come.
4Seek support. No one can do everything. If you want to sustain your willpower, seek out support from others.
- Certain specific tasks, like quitting drinking or smoking, have support groups at hospitals and community centers that can help.
- Talk to your friends and family members about what you’re trying to accomplish. Ask them to support you along the way. If you’re trying to cut back on drinking, for example, ask that your family members not drink in front of you.
How do I reduce temptation?
By saying remember that saying no is the best thing and do something to distract you watch a funny movieor video, read a book, draw or paint, talk on the phone with a friend, etc.
What if the task has to be achieved alone without the help of anybody?
Then use self-motivation. It is good to be able to trust and rely on others but to be successful you have to also be able to rely on yourself. To keep yourself accountable, remind yourself of the deadline or make your own and continue to work on it until it’s completed in a way you can be proud of.
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- Don’t be afraid to get back into something worthwhile, if you have had a break or a setback. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and so take breaks when needed.
In other languages:
Español: aumentar tu fuerza de voluntad, Italiano: Aumentare la tua Forza di Volontà, Português: Aumentar a sua Força de Vontade, 中文: 增强毅力, Русский: воспитать в себе силу воли, Deutsch: Deine Willenskraft steigern, 한국어: 의지력 키우는 방법, Français: développer sa volonté, ไทย: เพิ่มกำลังใจ, العربية: زيادة قوة إرادتك, Bahasa Indonesia: Meningkatkan Tekad, Čeština: Jak mít pevnější vůli
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