Do some people have more willpower than others? Yes, and it can have an enormous impact on your life. But no worries, you can train your willpower muscle.
Willpower lives in the front of our brain, namely in the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for decision making. According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, author of the book The Willpower Instinct, temporary states such as being under the influence, distracted or even sleep-deprived can alter the function and therefore your strength of willpower.
OMG! Read that again!
“Temporary states such as being under the influence (duh!), distracted or even sleep-deprived can alter the function and therefore your strength of willpower.”
Now, I don’t know your personal story so this may not apply to you, but majority of people are sleep-deprived in today’s ever increasing world of do more and sleep less.
Squirrel!! Oh, FB notification…the amount of distractions that we are exposed to every day is ridiculous. If you haven’t turned notifications off your phone go read this post I wrote. If you’re addicted to notifications it’s not much different than as if you’re addicted to drugs or other dopamine producing things.
Taking notifications off my phone was a game-changer. I already had my phone on silent but anytime I would grab my phone for something there they were – the notifications! In droves. Red little dots everywhere and not to mention the banners from Instagram and Facebook.
Even if I didn’t go in and check them my brain would go “Hey, hmm…wonder what the rest of the message said?” “Hmm, maybe I have a comment somewhere I should go answer?” MAJOR distraction!
Okay, so let’s get back to willpower. When your brain is distracted and/or sleep-deprived you are automatically operating with reduced willpower. Not a great start.
Of course we don’t have to experience lack of sleep to struggle with willpower but I think we can all agree on that when we are tired it’s harder to avoid things we know we should avoid. Most people don’t exactly choose exercise over eating sweets when they are tired and exhausted.
That said, according to research people that showed strong self-discipline and willpower as children tend to fare better as adults, even decades later. Delayed instant gratification played a big role in that.
What Can We Do?
ONE: Increase your sleep and reduce distractions. A well-rested brain has more energy to help you resist those temptations.
TWO: Write things down and track. Keep your goals handy and review them often. Know why you want to achieve something. Clarity gives you motivation which helps boost that willpower to help you get to where you want to go. In a study where participants had to record everything they ate for two weeks those that tracked their progress fared better in willpower depleting tests than those that didn’t. Tracking keeps us accountable which helps us establish better habits.
THREE: Whatever you focus on expands. When you focus on that you shouldn’t have that piece of cake it grows in your mind and won’t let you think of anything else. Focus on instead that you could have that cake but you choose not to. Then focus on your end goal instead and visualize how awesome you will feel once you reach it.
FOUR: You can boost your willpower by eating a diet that provides your brain better glucose. When your brain is low on glucose your willpower also goes down. This could explain why successful people that tend to eat a healthy diet have better habits. They simply have the willpower to get them in place! And it seems as if willpower is just like any muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.
FIVE: Your mindset makes a huge difference. In studies people that think that willpower is unlimited have more willpower, while those that think you are born with limited willpower, i.e. “I’m born this way, I don’t have any willpower!” tend to have lower willpower.
Your mind and what you put into your mind can completely change your life! Now that said, eliminating triggers that deplete your willpower can definitely help especially in the beginning of you creating a new habit, or while working on boosting that willpower muscle.
Also, have reminders (like on your phone, sticky notes and friends) that support your new habit or what you are working on becoming. I have reminders going off several times a day on my phone helping to remind me of my goals and of who I want to be.
Habits, mindset and willpower go hand in hand. Here are three awesome books I’ve read that I recommend you read too.*
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Mindset by Carol Dweck
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*I’m an Amazon affiliate and should you purchase through these links I receive a small commission with no additional cost to you. However, I only recommend products I believe in or personally use. Thank you for supporting this blog through your purchase.
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