Willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. So is yours up to the task?
If you’re like most people, you probably think life would be much better if you had more willpower. With greater self-control, you’d move more, drink less, spend less and weigh less. You could be onto something, with studies linking willpower with a more successful and healthier life. Whatever we choose to call it – determination, drive, resolve, self-discipline, self-control – willpower can make our personal and working lives easier. Try these three simple ideas to strengthen yours:
- Practice makes perfect. Researchers say that with a little practice, you can improve willpower. Make a concerted effort to exercise your willpower and in time it will become easier. According to US weight-loss researcher Tricia Leahey, “Our findings suggest that self-control is potentially malleable and the practice of inhibiting impulses may help people lose weight, eat healthier and increase their physical activity.”
- Go easy on yourself. Our willpower is tested each and every day, around the clock – you drag yourself off the sofa, resist that second biscuit with your morning cup of tea, or stop yourself pouring another glass of red with dinner. But if you’re too hard on yourself day in and day out, you could be going about it the wrong way. Alternating between times where you exercise willpower – say, to get yourself to the gym – and times where you give in to your wants and desires – say, to enjoy a few squares of dark chocolate after dinner, will further strengthen your resolve in the long term. Psychology experts believe that:
- Muscles get stronger when exercised.
- Muscles can be overworked, leaving them weak until they have a chance to recover.
- This is also true of willpower.
- Find ways to manage stress. It’s when life becomes stressful that willpower can weaken. To keep your self-control on track, find ways to manage stressful situations before they arise so you’re prepared. If stress at work is a problem, learn breathing exercises you can do at your desk to reduce your response to stressful events. Then you’re less likely to find yourself grappling with your willpower after work to stop yourself heading to the pub instead of the gym.
This article was previously published in the Well at Work Newsletter