Will power is the commonly touted key to resolving many issues in life. We instinctively feel that if we can gather more willpower, then we can be more healthy, go up the career ladder, and accomplish more.
However, willpower is a limited resource – not something that many people know. And it also gets used up every time we have to make a decision.
When we plan our meals, do grocery shopping, answer emails, or try to pick the right outfit for an important meeting, we’re using up our willpower. And after a point, we simply cannot force ourselves to do more.
Have you ever experienced coming home after a day’s work and simply ordering in food even though you want to eat healthy home-made food?
You end up giving in to the easiest things you can do because your willpower is literally depleted. There are many studies that show that whenever you use your will to manage difficult situations and make decisions, your brain consumes more glucose. And to make up for it, you need to eat something that gives you energy instantly which is why so many people eat sugar-rich foods when they’re exhausted or stressed out.
However, there are ways to boost your willpower or at least, to leverage it so that you’re using your mental abilities effectively.
Let’s explore some practical tips that you can use to maintain or grow your willpower.
‘Train’ your will power muscle
Although willpower is limited and you can’t simply create more of it just by wanting it, you can strengthen your willpower by working at it with practical steps.
In the book Willpower by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, they found that people who carried out small practical willpower exercises were able to extend their willpower later. Things like keeping your posture upright actually impact one’s ability to deal with extra challenges.
So, here is a list of things you can do on a daily basis that if you practice over a long period of time will actually make you mentally stronger and achieve goals that demand more willpower from you.
- Sit still for a fixed amount of time. You can meditate or just relax without doing anything for a certain amount of time
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator every time
- Use a handgrip tool every day to create hand and wrist strength. See how many reps you can carry out and try to beat your record regularly
- Use your non-dominant hand for writing and other work
- Be mindful of your habits. Track your spending, eating, and exercising on a daily basis using a note app
- Exercise regularly by running, lifting weights, or by doing other things
The idea is to make these activities regular things that you do without thought and without skipping them. The more diligent you are in doing any of these small exercises, the more successful you’ll be when you need to draw on more willpower to drink more water or go for that run.
Replenish your brain energy with healthy habits
Your willpower comes from your brain and so, you need to care for your brain just the way you need to look after your body i.e. with healthy habits.
Your brain is only 2% of your entire body mass but it uses up 20% of the entire body’s energy intake. Develop a healthy routine using the following tips to optimize your brain’s function:
- Sleep for at least eight hours a day
- Go to bed early to bring your body back to its normal circadian rhythm
- Drink several glasses of water a day; your brain needs hydration just like any other part of your body
- Eat foods rich in healthy fats and avoid processed items
During the day, if you find it hard to work or study, take a short nap to relax. You could also eat a healthy snack to introduce glucose into your body and feel better.
Create lofty and meaningful goals
Around the world, millions, if not billions of people, do things like fast, pray regularly without fail, and carry out other practices because of spiritual and religious reasons.
Even though such efforts can be difficult, many people still undertake such activities along with their regular life responsibilities. Even in everyday life, we come across people who do charitable work that’s demanding on top of their normal activities. In these cases, willpower seems to sustain over a long period of time and with relative ease. How is this possible?
The answer is simple and intuitive. Strong, meaningful, and lofty goals (and beliefs) somehow power our brains to keep working despite having used up our willpower in other work.
You’ve probably seen this in your own life. If you have children or are passionate about certain social causes, then you’ve likely gone out of the way to do things for important issues.
When setting a goal, focus on beliefs and the deeper reasons and values to generate a steady supply of willpower.
For example, I wanted to start running as a regular form of exercise. But it was only when I thought about how I wanted to be healthy to look after my family that I was able to make running a long-term habit.
Likewise, if you want to start a business then having a goal where you focus on transforming your customers’ life will motivate you more than if you focused on just making a profit.
Achieve your goals by leveraging willpower
It’s not a good idea to force yourself into doing things that seem difficult for you at a given time. If you do try to force yourself to do something challenging like exercise more, study more, or some other task, then you’re going to end up indulging in something unhealthy to compensate for the strain you feel.
Instead, understand what willpower is really like. It’s a limited resource that gets used up as we do normal things in life. And it’s understandable why it’s hard to just work more or manage multiple tasks.
The tips given here: training yourself, being healthy, and setting deeper goals, are powerful ways to improve your willpower.
Make small changes to your life and you’ll see greater outcomes over time.