Having strong willpower should be considered a superpower. Willpower can make all the difference in the world. It is what stands behind most success stories. It is what helps us forge new habits and what keeps us on a chosen course no matter how difficult the road gets. It is what helps us resist distraction and lead a productive lifestyle.
What is Willpower?
Simply put, willpower is our ability to delay gratification. It is our self-control that helps us resist distracting impulses and persevere. As the American Psychology Association has so nicely put it: “Willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.”
Researchers have found that levels of willpower are consistent over time. If levels of self-control were low as a child, the higher the chance self-control and willpower will be low as an adult.
The most well-known experiment associated with studying willpower is the “marshmallow experiment”. It began in the 1960s by psychologist Walter Mischel. He offered 4-year-olds the choice of a marshmallow now, or two if they could wait 15 minutes. He and other researchers then tracked the performance of these children as they became adults. They found that children who resisted temptation (“high delayers”) achieved greater academic success, better health, and lower rates of marital separation and divorce. Mischel concluded that the ability to delay gratification constituted“a protective buffer against the development of all kinds of vulnerabilities later in life.”
In a second study, 1,000 children were tracked from birth to the age of 32. The researchers found that childhood self-control predicted physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offenses. This was true even when other factors such as intelligence and social class were equated. They even compared sibling pairs and found that the sibling in each pair with lower self-control had poorer outcomes, despite shared family background.
So How Can You Improve Your Willpower?
Consider willpower as a muscle. You undoubtedly already know that muscles get stronger when you exercise them. To master your willpower, check out these tips:
● Start Small And Increase The Size of Positive Habits
Ex: Make your bed first thing every morning
● Develop Your Own Reward System
If you break your big goal into a few smaller goals and assign a valuable reward for each small goal achieved, your willpower will be activated.
● Feed Your Brain Properly
Studies suggest that a poor diet makes you inclined to make more emotional choices than if you were well fed.
● Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Ex: If you keep snacks on your desk or kitchen counter, try keeping in your drawer to reduce visual temptations.
● Avoid Stress
Stress strongly depletes willpower. When people are stressed, they tend to fall back on ingrained habits
Do not get discouraged if you find yourself giving into temptation or falling back into bad habits. You are not forever bound to your bad decisions or bad habits. Of course, some poor habits might be hard to break, but as long as you keep your goal in mind and work on strengthening your willpower, nothing is impossible. You can become a better version of yourself; the power to make this happen is always within you.