Repeat after me: yes, you can do this!
Not that easy is it?
There’s always so much we want to do. Exercise, eat better, learn something new, try a different hobby – but how long have you been wanting to do these things for? It’s like you start something, but can’t seem to stick with it. Sound familiar? I thought so. If only our willpower showed up more often, right?
Actually, most of us are better at this than we think. Getting out of bed in the morning, not having your favourite junk food every day, working through tasks you don’t always enjoy – you do those things daily, which means your willpower does exist. So really, we should start giving ourselves a bit more credit for the things that we do every day.
But how do we apply willpower to our goals? How do we relate it to the things we want to actively achieve? That’s what we’re going to dig into with this post and hopefully, it’ll show that you’ve got more willpower than you know.
What Even is Willpower?
It’s sort of like a muscle and it’s really useful to think of it that way. When you exercise, your muscles grow stronger, and then you rest before using them again. When you exercise your willpower more often, it becomes stronger. And like exercise, you’ve got to let it rest before you can use it again. But whereas our leg and stomach muscles are something we can see – willpower isn’t.
I won’t go into the ins and outs, but your willpower muscles exist just behind your forehead, which also looks after short-term memory.
Lots of experiments have been carried out and they basically come to the same conclusion – when we’ve got too much on our mind, our willpower isn’t likely to be as strong. So let’s say you’re having a huge crisis at work and you’re talking to your friend about it. She offers you an apple or a slice of cake. Because you’ve got so much on your mind, you’re more likely to take the cake.
But really, it’s all about how we perceive our willpower. If we think we have an endless amount of it, then surely we can conquer anything? But if we believe we can only control a part of it, that’s when it comes to deciding to skip the gym because you’ve worked late all week.
I’ve struggled with this. Over time, I’ve come to realise that my willpower is my own and I’m the one responsible for it. So if you don’t feel like you’ve got control over yours, here’s a little guide to upping your willpower for good.
#1 Kick-start It
Would you sign up for a marathon without having run a mile? Would you say you’re going to make a dress when you’ve never sown before? You’ve got to ease in and encourage yourself to do something before it actually happens. One of the biggest ways to see an increase in your willpower is to start small. This will build your stamina for taking on the bigger task.
With any goal that you set yourself, you’ve got to make a plan of how to get there. Pick the first tiny aspect of the goal you want to reach and build from there. If you want to be more mindful, start with writing something positive in your journal every morning. Focusing on a smaller task will strengthen your willpower so you’ve got more when it comes to the bigger challenges.
#2 Do Something You Enjoy
Turns out that we actually do need time to do nothing! You use your willpower a lot throughout the day, whether it’s turning down the offer of a biscuit or dealing with a difficult colleague. And if you know you’ve got to exercise after work (and you really can’t be bothered), then give yourself a reward.
Say “if I go to the gym, I get to do X when I get home.” Your favourite film, TV programme or book is the best place to start – reading or watching something you’ve already done gives your brain a rest, because you don’t have to focus on it. You’re just sitting there, resting and enjoying it. Even just five minutes of this a day will make a difference.
#3 Tell Yourself You Can
I do this all the time. Tell myself to stop being stupid, tell myself to get a grip – tell myself I can do it. If you tell yourself you can accomplish something you’ll be more likely to accomplish it than someone who doesn’t tell themselves that. Put it on your water bottle so it’s there when you go to the gym or hang it on your door so you see it as soon as you walk in.
Something I’ve seen people do, and what I want to do myself is create a gallery wall. So all your favourite quotes or sayings are hung up in frames on one wall. There could be two or there could be ten. The point is that the quotes speak to you and give your willpower the push it needs.
#4 Make a Deal
Need to get a task done that you don’t enjoy? Relate it to something you do enjoy. It’s almost like you’re tempting yourself to get it done. Let’s say you really want to catch up with your favourite podcast. Tell yourself you can only do it if it’s while you’re cleaning your office or doing a workout. Or you can only go for a manicure if you send those emails you’ve been putting off. It’s similar to doing something you enjoy – and it really works.
#5 Lay Off Mindless Scrolling
Or at least avoid it before starting a task that requires a lot of willpower. You might see mindlessly scrolling through your social feeds as something to pass the time or a bit of entertainment. But actually, it takes away all your motivation before you’ve even started.
Ever get to work and find it difficult to get started? That could be because you look through social media in a morning. I never look at social media before I get to work and this is a very recent change I’ve made. But I’ve seen a difference. Instead, just write or read or listen to a podcast. This will make your motivation last for much longer throughout the day – and I know, because I’m always ready for my 5pm workout.
Plus, it also takes you away from any competition. Just a couple of minutes scrolling through your social feeds seeing how amazing everyone’s lives are will take away any motivation to take action with your own. If you stop comparing yourself to other people, you’re more likely to feel good about yourself and that is key when it comes to willpower.
#6 Do Your Workout in the Same Place
Exercise is one of the biggies when it comes to willpower. But do you know what sorts of hormones are released when you exercise? Happy ones. Yes my friends, a happy place truly does exist! If you go somewhere to do your workout every day and you sweat like mad, that will become your happy place and you’ll want to go there. You won’t want to exercise anywhere else – you’ll want to do it in the place you know you can get results, and feel the same positive sensations, too.
#7 Create a Routine
There are so many articles about how the most successful women all rely on a brilliant morning and evening routine. And you will see a difference in your willpower if you have them too. When you’re going through a tough time, it’s easy to scratch your usual homemade dinners for a takeaway. But if you’ve got a routine when you know it’s Thursday and that means an epic stir fry, you’re going to be much more likely to make the stir fry.
When you’ve got a lot going on, your mind shuts down. It just goes onto auto-pilot. That’s when you want to forget about the complex tasks and let your routine get to work. If you force your mind to work or do something when it doesn’t want to, then you’re likely to put a lot less effort into it and not get as good results either.
#8 Give Yourself Options
I had to include this point because I’m living proof that it works.
If you’re at a buffet, you tend to eat a lot more because there’s so much choice, right? Well, if you give yourself more options when it comes to exercising, you’ll be more likely to workout and enjoy it too.
That’s why I don’t go to the gym – I exercise from home and I’m always doing something different. This makes me want to do them even more. You’ve got to switch up your exercise routine often, because not only will your body get used to it, but you’ll also begin to find it boring. Try different classes, different videos, different accessories – the more choice you’ve got, the better.
#9 Visualise Your Goal
If you want to start eating healthier, buy yourself something from your kitchen that will help you look forward to creating your meals. If you want to run that marathon, get yourself a brand new pair of trainers to wear each time you go for a run. I love the saying, “you’ve got to walk before you can run”. The preparation you put into reaching your goal is just as important as actually achieving it.
How do you increase your willpower? Will you be trying out some of the tips listed here?