Boost willpower the easy way: Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little extra boost of willpower when you need it most? It would make it so much easier to stick to our plans and reach our goals instead of giving in to temptation. Well, you’re in luck. I’m about to share five different tips and strategies with you that help you get that extra boost of willpower whenever you need it. Let’s dive in and explore these willpower “power-ups.”
2. Take It One Task At A Time
The best way to strengthen willpower is to focus it on one task at a time. It’s tempting to get motivated and start to change everything all at once. I get it. It’s just not the most successful strategy. Instead, focus on one change at a time and use all your willpower to take it from new behavior to well-established habit before moving on to the next change. Your willpower efforts will strengthen many times over when you focus them on one thing at a time.
3. Find An Accountability Partner
It’s much easier to do what you set out to do when you know that someone is watching. When you know you have to report any mishaps or slip-ups to this person, you’ll think twice about giving in to temptation. An accountability partner works even better when both of you have the same or similar goals and can hold each other accountable.
4. Dream of "done"
Imagine yourself handing in the big project, soaking up the appreciation from your colleagues or boss. Or crossing the finish line for the half-marathon you’ve always wanted to run. The rush, the aliveness, the wind on your face, the medal …
That’s a lot more fun and motivating to think about than how much work it is to get out of bed for your long, Sunday morning run!
Re-orient your brain by summoning more motivating feelings than just “not running this morning is more enjoyable than running this morning.” If your goals are meaningful, this will help.
5. Track Your Progress
Often change comes in small increments, and it can be hard to see progress. Track it in a journal, a spreadsheet or any other way that makes sense to you. Revisit it often and see how far you’ve already come. There’s nothing like it to keep you going.
6. Make your toughest choices first
Scientists have found that willpower is like a full bathtub that’s drained throughout the day. So, why not start your toughest challenges when you have a full reserve? Get that project started or fit that workout in before you even check your email or have breakfast. Bonus: the high you’ll get from crossing off your hardest ‘to-do’ will help you sail through the rest of your day.
A lot of times people will ‘cheat’ right after taking positive steps towards their goals. (A common version of this trap is, “I worked out three days in a row, so I deserve this cookie.”) Most of us can relate to this thinking – but it’s totally irrational! We’ll often trick ourselves into setbacks because we think we deserve them, even if we don’t really want them and deep down we know they’ll work against us in the long-run.
How can you counteract this effect? Research finds that if you use your positive streak to recommit (“If I worked out three days this week, I must be really committed to my health and fitness goal!”) rather than an excuse for wiggle room, we don’t take the same cheat options. Cool, right?
Meditation is an expressway to better willpower. Bringing your attention to your breathing for 15 minutes, or even five, flexes your willpower muscles by applying discipline to your thinking. It does this by working two mental ‘muscle groups’: first, the set of muscles that notice when your attention is drifting, and second, the set of muscles that bring you back to your task at hand. Over time, even small amounts of meditation will help you build the discipline to easily do what was once hard – like pushing through a long stretch at work.
9. Set mini-goals
Which seems more doable: committing to three 20 minute runs this week or a half-marathon? Mini-goals are brilliant because they’re easier to achieve and boost your commitment to continuing. When we size them up, we see them as achievable rather than daunting. Each time you succeed at one, it boosts your sense of efficacy and personal integrity: not only are you capable of doing what you set out to do, but you followed through on it. Nice.
The beauty of mini-goals is that over time, mini-goals – and the momentum you’ve built by doing them – can quickly turn into super-goals. So that half marathon might be more likely to happen, and sooner and more easily than you think!
Low blood sugar decreases your ability to make tough decisions. If you’re running on empty physically, you’ll also be running on empty mentally. (Yes, this one’s somewhat ironic if your goal involves changing food patterns – but even so, letting your blood sugar drop too far will only sabotage you over time.)
Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep have a tough time exercising their willpower. Sleep is critical for a healthy brain – along with just about everything else. So to optimize your willpower muscle, make sure you’re catching your zzz’s.
12. Nix the self-sabotage
Making yourself feel bad hurts, rather than helps, your willpower efforts. Researchers have found that compassion is a far better strategy than tough love – telling yourself “It’s OK, everyone has setbacks sometimes,” will help you bounce back more quickly than negative self-talk.
13. Take the first hard step
As a new behavior becomes a habit, it is more natural. You have to use less and less willpower to ‘make it so.’ When you’re starting a new pattern that feels hard, remind yourself that the first steps are truly the hardest. It will probably never feel harder than it does in those first few choices. In the case of repeated behaviors, like exercise or saving money, it takes weeks for new habits to take hold. By that point, the habit will be so ingrained, you’d have to try hard not to do it.
14. Use Willpower To Create Habits
Use your willpower strategically to create new habits and routines. Once something starts to become a habit, it takes less and less willpower to keep it up. Keep working on what you want to change one thing a time until it becomes routine and so no longer requires willpower.
15. Remind Yourself Of Your “Why”
There's nothing better than motivation to boost your willpower. The best way to stay motivated is to continually remind yourself of why you're doing what you're doing. The "why" is the reason that you want to accomplish your long-term goal. Define it, digging deep to find the things that genuinely motivate you. Then remind yourself regularly of your big “why.” Put it on a sticky note, create a vision board, or put up other reminders of it all around you. Look at them, read them, and consume them anytime you need an extra willpower boost.
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