We’ve all been there… the times when it feels like life is really putting your willpower to the test.
Perhaps it’s the cake in the office lunch room, the crisps your friends order at the pub, or the tub of ice cream that sits in your freezer beckoning your name.
It can feel like there’s temptation lurking behind every corner and often in the times that you need it most, your willpower is nowhere to be seen!
Poof…into the abyss!
So, how do we get our willpower to show up for us when we need it? The good news is that willpower can work like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it becomes and the less likely it is to make a disappearing act when you need it most. To understand more about how we strengthen our willpower, we have to first understand what willpower is.
So, what is willpower?
Willpower is what we call the process when your conscious mind (found in your prefrontal cortex) is able to override your unconscious or your ‘automatic’ mind (the part of the brain that controls our habits).
For example, when you consciously decide to pick an apple as an evening snack over your usual chocolate bar, that’s an act of willpower as your conscious brain is overriding your unconscious habits.
The issue is, your automatic mind is the one that runs most of your life so making those changes requires practice.
How can you strengthen your willpower?
In my line of work, willpower is always a big part of the conversation because making healthy changes to your life often involves consciously overriding unhealthy habits that we’ve acquired.
But the great thing is that willpower isn’t static, it’s something we can grow and strengthen – and I’m going to show you three techniques for doing that…
Three Ways To Get More Willpower…
1. Small Willpower Workouts
Don’t worry, this doesn’t require a gym membership or an at-home dumbbell set – these small willpower workouts can look like anything from making your bed every morning to making more time for yourself, or any other small changes that require using your conscious mind more.
The idea with these mini exercises of willpower is that the more you use the muscle, the stronger it gets. Studies have shown that the more you encourage your conscious brain to override your unconscious habits in one area of your life, the more it strengthens your willpower in all areas of your life.
Try to choose something small that you know will have a positive impact on your life, perhaps something that you’ve wanted to start/stop doing anyway and see how it impacts other areas of your life.
2. Simplify your decision-making
Just like a muscle, willpower can become depleted when overused which is why so many of us often struggle to ignore the lure of our unhealthy habits in the evenings.
Willpower is all about decision-making so essentially any time we make a conscious decision to do/not do something (override our unconscious mind), we’re using up our precious willpower stores. Try thinking of it like a bank account; every morning you wake up with 100 willpower credits and with every conscious decision you make throughout the day, you’re withdrawing from your daily allowance. The more you take, the less there is to draw from. So, when it comes to a big decision that requires a big withdrawal of willpower (e.g. resisting your evening chocolate bar), we just don’t have the funds to make it work.
One thing we can do to preserve our ‘daily allowance’ of willpower is to reduce the number of conscious decisions we’re making each day. Some decisions are unavoidable, but simplifying your life with small changes like meal planning ahead of time, having a capsule wardrobe, or even limiting our time on social media (which draws on constant decision-making) can actually help us preserve our willpower for the conscious decisions that help us achieve our health goals.
This might surprise you, but one of the single most effective ways to strengthen your willpower is through meditation. When you practice meditation on a regular basis, you’re building a whole range of skills such as attention, focus, stress-management, impulse-control and self-awareness, all of which are so powerful for getting ourselves out of auto-pilot and making more conscious, intentional decisions.
In fact, studies show that just 8 weeks of daily meditation can lead to an increase in brain matter in the prefrontal cortex – meaning it can literally grow the part of your brain that helps you make conscious decisions! How amazing is that?
Start small with daily 5 minute meditations and work your way up. If you find yourself skipping days as you increase your time, go back to 5 minutes a day until you can maintain a daily practice – as with most things, small and often is better for making sustainable change!
If you’re looking for a way to find more willpower in your daily decisions and live your life more intentionally then I highly recommend trying these practices out for yourself. Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve and why you want to do it truly is the key to long-term healthy changes so make sure you spend some time figuring that out before you take the first step.
Need a hand?
If strengthening your willpower and learning how to create sustainable healthy habits is something you’d like to explore then get in touch to find out how I can support your journey to a healthier, happier life.