Life comes at you fast. Personal goals and dreams may fall to the wayside as traffic, groceries, and family obligations creep into your spare time. While this is a natural part of life, it doesn’t have to mean that you can’t achieve your greatest goals. Instead, learn how to use your time more effectively so that you can successfully meet your goals sooner rather than later.
Well, it turns out that willpower and self-control have a lot to do with a person’s success.
The most famous study to point to this has since been called the “marshmallow experiment.” In the 1960s, a psychologist studied the willpower of four year olds. Interestingly, he then followed up on these children to see how the fared later in life.
He first did this by offering the children a marshmallow with the stipulation that if they waited several minutes, then they would receive an additional marshmallow. Naturally, some children chose to eat the marshmallow immediately while others waited until they received the second marshmallow.
So how did this relate to their success later in life?
The children who waited for the second marshmallow had better physical health, higher incomes, better education, and fewer criminal offenses. The study demonstrated that willpower, or the ability to endure difficulty in order to receive delayed rewards, played a huge role in overall outcomes. 1
Luckily, you don’t need to go back in time to increase your willpower in order to improve your success. Instead, you can start increasing your willpower today.
Here are a few ways to increase your willpower:
1. Use It or Lose It
Willpower is just like a muscle in that you need to exercise it regularly in order to see improvements. Willpower does not have an on or off switch, meaning that you can’t simply practice it with the expectation of being successful. Instead, use small opportunities throughout the day to practice willpower. Over time, you will be able to increase your abilities enough to stretch your willpower to bigger things.
However, don’t expect to practice willpower continuously, just like you wouldn’t expect a professional athlete to train 24/7. Give yourself breaks in between each push to resist something. For example, if you’re going to eat a candy bar, try eating it 15 minutes later than planned. This will both increase your willpower and satisfaction.
2. Just Think About Something Else
As simple as this sounds, it truly works! One of the difficult aspects of increasing your willpower is the obsessive thinking that comes with the waiting period. Rather than obsessing over the fact that you are resisting something, guide your thoughts toward something else.
The reason this works is because the body not only responds to your real life experiences, but it also responds to your imagined experiences, too. Imagine yourself in a relaxing place, or think about a positive interaction you recently had. These thoughts will spark a release of neurotransmitters that will help take the edge off of whatever it is you are denying yourself from.
3. Create Good Habits
It is a lot easier to increase your willpower if you create a life filled with good habits. In fact, there is a reason alcoholism and mental health are so intimately related: good life habits get in the way of bad choices.
Go for daily walks and eat a diet made mostly of whole, real foods. Spend time with loved ones and laugh often. Get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated. All of these things will help your body and brain function at optimal levels, supporting your brain’s ability to resist temptation as it pops up.
4. Stay Away From Temptation
If you are seriously tempted by something, then it may be best to avoid it for awhile until your willpower proves to be much stronger. The disease model of addiction rings true for any addiction, not just those of drugs and alcohol. Know and understand your weaknesses so that temptation doesn’t come as quite a shock.
Keep candies out of your own kitchen if you’re on a diet and keep social media closed if you’re trying to focus on a specific task. By keeping these things out of your direct path, it will be a lot easier to resist them.
5. Give Yourself a Break
Most of all, don’t forget that you are human! You will make mistakes and that’s okay. The important thing is to remember that increasing your willpower is a long term process.
To ease the process of increasing your willpower, you may want to look to the addiction recovery process for guidance. Many addicts looking to increase their willpower during recovery spend a lot of time focusing on stress reduction during recovery. While you may not be an addict, yourself, this technique rings true for increasing willpower, anyway.
Willpower is a crucial component of living a successful life. Whether it’s withstanding the urge to scream out during rush hour, or the ability to complete a difficult task that your boss assigns to you, willpower will help you achieve your goals.
Cummins, D. D. (2013, June 21). How to Boost Your Willpower. Retrieved September 02, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/good-thinking/201306/how-boost-your-willpower