I wanted to lose weight so I thought “willpower, I just need to want it enough”. 3 months later I had lost the weight, gained the biggest biceps, the biggest pecks, and a six-pack. My neighbor did the same, now she is Miss Universe with the perfect waistline. Now, wouldn’t that be something else?
What is the definition of willpower?
Sometimes we ask ourselves what willpower means, and well, according to the dictionary it means:
• The ability to control oneself and determine one’s actions, firmness of will.
• Control of one’s impulses and actions; self-control.
• Energetic determination
Not very helpful right? Do not worry. In this article, we will look at the subject and not rely on some dictionaries definition of the word. It will get us nowhere because it does not tell us how to get there.
Seven Willpower Strategies
• Make a to-do list- or at least a to-don’t list. The to-do list can sound dreary and off-putting. Well, try thinking of it as a to-don’t list: a catalog of things that you do not have to worry about once you write it down. If you do not do that your unconscious keeps fretting about them, like a song playing over and over in your head.
• Do the dishes after eating. Perhaps you do not care about some dirty dishes, you do them when you feel like it. The environmental cues of having a clean kitchen will cause you to subtly your brain and your behavior, making it ultimately less of a strain to maintain self-discipline.
- According to Benjamin P. Hardy, a Ph.D. candidate in Motivation Psychology, Instead of focusing on your behavior, focus on your environment. Your environment — including the people you surround yourself with — is the clearest indicator of who you are and who you’re becoming.
• If you want to lose weight, you make pre-made meals for the next couple of days. This way you do not have to drain your willpower buy figuring out what to cook every day. Because it does, as a matter of fact, drain your energy by constantly making choices.
• In a study conducted by social psychologist Robert Wicklund and Shelly Duval people who were put in front of a mirror, or told that their actions were being filmed would constantly change their behavior. These people were more consistent with their actions and their actions were more consistent with their values. So, join a Facebook group for support and post a picture of yourself.
- Setting a timeline.
• To avoid distractions from social-media by blocking these sites, for example, an hour. You can download apps for this purpose.
According to the book Willpower, the hardest thing reported was the urge to resist passing up food and soft drinks.
There has been researching suggesting that willpower is a finite resource, hence you are limited to what you are able to achieve. The subject has been written and talked about, and is something that is not very uplifting. Do not worry because it is not true.
What benefits having willpower brings
“Australian scientists Megan Oaten, PhD, and Ken Cheng, PhD, of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, assigned volunteers to a two-month program of physical exercise — a routine that required willpower. At the end of two months, participants who had stuck with the program did better on a lab measure of self-control than did participants who were not assigned to the exercise regimen. That is not all. The subjects also reported smoking less and drinking less alcohol, eating healthier food, monitoring their spending more carefully, and improving their study habits. Regularly exercising their willpower with physical exercise, it seemed, led to better willpower in nearly all areas of their lives.”
The hopeless feeling
We ask where it comes from and, the foremost question of all- how do I gain willpower? There needs to be some kind of “recipe” for achieving a consistent growth in one’s personality which in turn generates willpower. And we just proved that there are ways of doing that in the second 7-point bullet-list paragraph you just read.
The training personalities
I think it is safe to say that it is an extremely large percentage of the population of the world who has done just that, asked: “why do I not have willpower, when others have it”. Let me tell you something, you are not alone. I asked myself these questions and started poking around internet forums and watching youtube videos of popular training personalities. Seeing these men and women with perfect bodies shows us that these are people with willpower. Why did I do that? Because I wanted to lose weight.
The fortune 500 company
One would think they, meaning the forums and training personalities, had other answers than “all you need is to want it enough”, this is essentially the message they bring. Since they show evidence of having willpower we automatically take this kind of message as a legitimate one. These people have stumbled upon the practical steps without them knowing about it.
“Born with It”
-Just like your friend who always gets along with everybody, some people are just “born with it”. And just like with willpower there is a science of how to do it, step by step research-based practical steps you can teach yourself to do.
These kinds of answers, like “wanting it enough” are utter nonsense. Just ask yourselves the following: How come not everybody is a movie star by day and a rockstar by night or a powerful executive at a fortune 500 company. We all should be famous, with the perfect waistline and biceps since those are the things so many people want.
Depleting your energy
If you have thought about losing weight perhaps you have also thought of quitting smoking, drinking etc. Unless we want to drain or willpower we need to take one step at a time. Do not Quit drinking, smoking or some other habits that you perhaps do not wish you had, at the same time.
If you do that, you will drain your energy to the point of not being able to do anything about it. I would wager some people even would exacerbate the very habits they wanted to get rid off in the first place due to the feeling of hopelessness and self-loathing.
Just as muscles are strengthened by regular exercise, regularly exerting self-control may improve willpower strength over time, this according to the APA (American Psychological Association).
The American Psychological Association
Some fun fact from the APA, Todd Heatherton, PhD, of Dartmouth College, and Kathleen Vohs demonstrated in a study in which they offered dieting students ice cream after they had watched a sad film. Some of the subjects had watched normally, while others were instructed to stifle their emotional reactions, an effort that required willpower. The researchers found that dieters who tapped into their willpower to squelch their feelings ate considerably more ice cream than did dieters who were free to respond emotionally to the movie.
Words of Wisdom from the APA
The APA states the following: “At its essence, willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals”.
Did you know that Willpower depletion has a physical basis? Individuals whose willpower has been depleted have decreased activity in a brain region involved with cognition, and have lower blood-glucose levels than do people whose willpower has not been diminished.
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 resolutions at once.
I started looking for books about willpower and found that many consistently came back to the good old “You just have to want it enough”. I knew that this was something to be avoided and searched for other books coming from another perspective. I was lucky because I found the book that made all the difference, in buying the book I hit the jackpot.
The Step-By-Step way
The book gave me a Step-by-Step guide on how to get things done. In this case, what I wanted to get done was my ability to grow into a person who could live a healthy lifestyle. The book delivered big time. When reading the book I found that it demonstrates principals one can use in real life.
I personally took these principals and wrote them down on small cards. This way it helped me remember what I could do next, and if I in the future would need to refresh my memory I could just use these cards.
I hope you will give this book a chance and apply what it teaches you. It helped me regain my health– which was very poor at the moment.
How I got you to read the whole article
Once I decided to write this article I decided to do whatever I could do to help the reader to read the whole thing. So, I used a few of the practical tips and tricks I learned from the book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” which I highly recommend you to read. The title of the book, “Willpower Rediscovering our Greatest strength”, which I find to be spot on, actually represents what you will gain from reading it.
Well then, what was it I actually did to get you to read the whole article?
• I used a bold-text bullet-list that stood out so that it would be easy to read and give you some of the answers you were looking for quickly.
• Once you read it you had worked on that “willpower muscle”, which give you that extra strength to continue reading the article. You had already gained a legitimate sense of achievement.
- I also let you know how meny steps there were to read and you decided to read them, not wasting your time and energy on whether or not you would actually do it. It may seem silly but it actually does matter how one handles choices.
• I also divided the text into short paragraphs with lots of free spaces, leading you to not feel overwhelmed by the length of the article.
• Each paragraph has a headline, again to not overwhelm the reader. The headline serves the purpose of the list that we talked about, it worked just as one of those things to cross over. Remember one step at a time.
I would like you to ask yourself: “Would I honestly read the whole article if it was just a big chunk of text, without headlines and lots of spaces?”. Perhaps you are the person who would do it, but far from everybody would read the thing.
You have now read the whole article. You wanted to learn about willpower and took a first concrete step in doing so. You have gained a little bit of knowledge on how to move forward and are now one step closer to whatever goal it is that you want to reach. It is a small step but it is a real-life practical step and no one can take it away from you. So now you can cross that off your list.
I truly recommend this book, “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”, it most certainly helped me with my illness, Chronic Urticaria, which according to the doctors “could not be cured”. Well I showed them, having the right tools is key, you can not build a house without them.
“The more conscious we become of what limits us, the more limitless becomes our life.” —Guy Finley
“Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”