Willpower and self-control are crucial ingredients for success, transformation, and mastery. So, how can you develop each one to change your behavior and thought process for the better? Keep reading to find out.
The spiritual leader and activist, Mahatma Gandhi, said, “Strength doesn’t come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will [power].” Yet, what exactly is willpower?
Basically, willpower is your ability to turn down and curb inner conflicts, such as short-term temptations, to meet long-term goals.
Say you want to supersize your takeout order or smoke a cigarette. But, deep down, you know you shouldn’t.
Or it could just as easily be the reverse. Maybe there’s something you know you should do, but keep procrastinating to avoid doing it, like going to the gym or filing your taxes.
When you reach this crossroads, that’s when your willpower kicks in. This instantaneous reaction stems from the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is the front section of the brain responsible for regulating our behavior and decision-making abilities.
So, the first thing you need to do to develop your willpower is to keep your prefrontal cortex in good shape by:
- Getting quality sleep each night
- Eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet
- Exercising 3–5 times a week
Can We Run Out of Willpower?
Interestingly enough, experts say that we have a finite stockpile of willpower. You start your day with only so much and the more you use it, the faster you run out.
Take, for example, trying to control your temper on your way to work, at work, then on your way back home from work. You also use up your willpower when you try to ignore distractions, help your kids with their homework, and negotiate a compromise with your partner.
Just like our actual muscles, our willpower gets worn out from all that repetitive use.
How to Develop Your Willpower
Check out these tips to increase your reserve of willpower.
- Learn breathing techniques
- Practice daily affirmations
- Meditate each day
- Focus on what’s important now by postponing what you shouldn’t do for later
- Limit your intake of addictive substances, like alcohol and nicotine
Self-control is defined as the “restraint exercised over one’s impulses, emotions, or desires” and works side-by-side with willpower. When you practice self-control, you direct your willpower toward the outcome you want.
This means that at times, you’ll have to not do something, like when you want to eat healthy and pass on the supersize meal. It also means that there will be times when you have to put in a conscious effort to dosomething, like building good habits or getting started on those taxes.
And, as with willpower, it’s also finite. In other words, each time you use self-control, your power to make sound decisions gradually diminishes until you start again the following morning. This is what experts refer to as ‘ego depletion’ and it happens because you spend most of your waking hours trying your best to focus on making decisions and exerting your willpower.
So, it’s no surprise that by the end of the day, you feel depleted and exhausted, and probably find it difficult to think coherently, let alone be able to make choices you won’t regret in the morning.
How to Develop Self-Control
Luckily, there are ways to improve your levels of self-control and reduce the impact of ego depletion. Many of them rely on the same techniques used to boost your willpower, like getting good sleep and managing stress, while others are slightly different.
Take a look.
- Learn how to regulate your emotions.
- Practice self-compassion.
- Become aware of your wants and needs to direct energy toward self-improvement.
- Manage your time and energy more efficiently.
- Create short and long-term goals to stay motivated.