“Strengthen your willpower in one area and it will spill over into other areas of your life” – Bryce Thatcher
Every day you are faced with choices, going on that run instead of watching television, choosing not to eat that extra piece of cake after dinner, or waking up early for work instead of hitting snooze 7 times, a test of your willpower is almost a constant thing each and every day. Typically around the turn of the New Year we feel very driven to set goals, am I right? Often times it is too easy to set a goal and by February have abandoned that goal only to set the same one the following year (I know I have been guilty of this). So how do we change our routine? How do we not lose sight of the goal among all the pressures of life? The key is to work and train one of the most important muscles you have, your willpower.
What is willpower?
Simply put willpower is the control exerted to do something, or restrain impulses. Willpower comes and it goes, and sometimes it can be tough to do, or not do something. Think of willpower like a savings account; use it when it counts the most! Many people think that you either have strong willpower or you don’t and that is just how it is, luckily that is not true. Willpower can be learned and improved over time by working it out, not as you would another part of the body but like typical workouts it will take time to build it up.
Attention, emotional response, behavior, and judgment all take place in the Prefrontal Cortex of the brain. There is a strong connection to how you feel or judge a situation vs. the level of willpower you can have. If you have had a tough day, deciding to go to the gym or on a run may be a little more difficult, just like if you are stressed out or have to make a lot of heavy decisions (which is often stressful) you may have a short supply of willpower for the day. Many situations in life can be hindering to our willpower which raises the golden question? How do I balance life to ensure I have willpower when I need it the most?
What is a willpower bucket?
The easiest way to understand willpower is to imagine that you have a willpower bucket. All of the positive influences and habits in your life go into this bucket, thus filling up your willpower bucket. The sorts of things you put into this bucket would be Sleep, love, meditation, exercise, breathing techniques, healthy eating, etc. The things that make you feel good or motivated are what fill this bucket full. Life goes in balance however, so there will be always things that put holes in your willpower bucket. These come in the form of addictions, guilt, stress, over commitment, procrastination, unhealthy food, or negative thoughts. Life will always present you with a situation, and it is up to you to choose how to respond. By filling your willpower bucket with as many positive things as possible is the most effective way to have willpower even when the times get tough.
How do I begin to develop habits that will fill my willpower bucket?
The biggest difference can be seen in the smallest change of the mind state. Try to skip language like: “I have to or I should” to “I CHOOSE to.” Your attitude and language choice will drain or boost your willpower. Choosing to do something gives you a sense of control, it is not being forced upon you. This small adjustment in your language and thought process can help you approach situations in a new light. The best thing about willpower is that when you begin to make these changes and fill your willpower bucket it can spill over into other aspects of your life. Habits you develop in your work life can translate to your athletic journey which travels to friendships, family, relationships etc. Willpower will always be challenged, each and every day. When you encounter things that you feel your willpower being tested, slow down, pause and breath: Be mindful and reflective, it is good to focus on the long term consequences as opposed to the immediate reward.
After adjusting your mind state you can add other elements to your life that enhance the overall quality of life thus filling your willpower bucket. Try a few of these:
- Create a routine
- Put first things first (Prioritize)
- Take a short power nap when feeling tested
- Do not work when sick
- Focus on higher purpose beyond the moment
- Simplify life
- Establish an accountability system
- Expect the unexpected
This is a only a few of the many ways you can alleviate stress from your life and plug some of the holes in your bucket that can drain your willpower.
Willpower is not something you are born with or you’re not. It can be learned, practiced, and exercised over time and become second nature. When you follow the steps to build strong willpower you also follow the steps to a higher quality of life. Remember that when your bucket is full, it spills over into other aspects of your life. How do you conquer your battle with willpower? What are some tips that you have? Let’s talk about them!