Would you believe me if I told you there are plenty of ways to maximize your willpower? Although we tend to think, I just don't have enough willpower to..., or, I'm too impulsive to...., the research suggests otherwise. Knowing just a few facts about willpower, a/k/a self-control, can help with any self-improvement plan.
First, willpower is not something that you either have or don't have; everyone can have it. Second, it's not unchangeable; everyone can build it up. Third, and most important, there are loads of ways to help you maximize your willpower. As Baumeister and Tierney discuss in their book, Willpower, it's like a muscle. Consider how you build up any muscle.
Getting your brain wired into little goals and achieving them, that helps you achieve the bigger things you shouldn't be able to do...that's what discipline is. It's repetition and practice-David Blaine, Endurance Artist
Practice. As with most muscles, if you practice and work the muscle, it gets stronger. Yeah, it's rough getting up an hour earlier to exercise. How about starting with 15 minutes? Then make it 30. After awhile, most people notice that it starts getting easier. In fact, you may be surprised to find yourself actually starting to miss those 45 minutes if you can't fit them in. Want to write, meditate or eat healthier foods? The principle: start small, bump it up gradually and keep at it to build your willpower.
When you tax it too much, the well of self-control will certainly run dry-Heidi Halvorson, Psychologist
Manageable goals. Overwork leads to muscle injury. Injured muscles mean you can no longer do the same amount of work. This has huge implications for willpower. Say you've started a healthy eating plan. You feel so pumped you join a gym. Then you realize you must quit smoking those last niggling cigarettes you've hung onto. Too much at once will strain your willpower. Each goal will suffer. The principle: one goal at a time is manageable.
Even the wisest people won't make good choices when they're not rested and their glucose is low- Roy Baumeister, Psychologist
Food and rest. Hungry, tired muscles do not get the job done. Neither do hungry, tired people. It's very difficult to work out, be creative or be productive in any realm when you don't have enough food and rest. It's another strain on your willpower muscle. Principle: food and rest are essential, not optional.
If you choose a routine ahead of time, before your emotions take over, behavior control becomes much easier-Charles Duhigg, Reporter,Writer
Routine. Muscles like routines. Change your workout routine too much and your muscles will let you know if you're pushing it. The willpower muscle also likes routines. Routines cut down on the decisions you have to make, reducing the likelihood of poor choices. You don't have to decide when to go to the gym; you look at your schedule and go when it tells you to. You don't have to decide what to eat for breakfast if your routine is to eat one of three options in your kitchen, all of which trigger healthy eating. You don't have to write when the muse speaks; you write at a particular time, in a particular place, with particular things around you that trigger writing. The principle: a new goal means a new routine.
Following these principles enables your muscle, be it willpower or bicep, to help you achieve your self-improvement goals.