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We all have something we’d do if we just had more willpower. Maybe we’d eat healthier or start a new hobby instead of spending hours a day scrolling through social media. If you’re feeling out of control in your life, it’s ok. It happens to all of us. Whether it’s work, relationships, or personal struggles, sometimes it feels like there’s just too much to tackle at once.
If you’re struggling to find the willpower to take control of your life, you may be going about it the wrong way. Willpower works differently than many people think and understanding it can be the secret to accessing it. Resources like BetterHelp can uncover the secrets behind willpower and how to get the motivation to follow your dreams.
What is Willpower?
Willpower is essentially the ability to control your body’s responses to your desires. Psychologists define willpower in a number of different ways, including the ability to delay gratification, override unwanted thoughts, and consciously self-regulate.
Willpower is a Limited Resource
What most people don’t know is that willpower is a limited resource. This lack of understanding is what stops many people from using it wisely. We believe that if we just will ourselves hard enough, we can immediately break long-term habits.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. We might be able to resist eating sweets a few times, but eventually, we will probably give in to the temptation. This is likely because we use willpower to do necessary tasks every day. It takes willpower to go to work when you’d rather stay in bed, deal with stressful situations, or even do tedious chores like laundry.
Eventually, our willpower runs out. After a stressful or emotional day, we might not have the willpower left to resist that candy bar.
When willpower gives out, people tend to make two mistakes that sabotage their goals. They will often blame themselves for failing and give up.
If you run out of willpower, it’s essential to remember that this is natural. It’s not something bad you did, and it doesn’t make you a failure. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t have the willpower to make a different decision tomorrow.
How do you get more willpower?
Motivation is Key
Willpower alone won’t allow you to accomplish your goals. Motivation is also a key component in establishing a new habit or improving a skill. When it gets hard to resist temptation, having a solid motivation to accomplish your goal can actually help increase your willpower. It is always easier to sacrifice something when you know that doing it will get you something better in the long run.
If you’re having trouble building a new habit or pursuing a goal, take some time to think about why you want to do it. What will you get out of achieving this goal? How will your life look different afterward? This can help you establish a strong motivation you’ll remember even when times get tough.
Practice Over Time
The other thing most people don’t know is that willpower isn’t fixed. Research suggests that willpower can actually be improved with practice. Just like you would when training a muscle, it’s important to pace yourself. Always start with small changes, and build up gradually over time. That way, you’ll be able to see results without depleting your willpower entirely and getting discouraged.
As an action becomes habitual, it will take less willpower to do. It may take enormous willpower to go for a run the first few times, but after you’ve been doing it for a year, you’ll just do it out of habit. You won’t need to use willpower to take that action anymore, so you can focus it on other things.
Notice Your Needs
Sometimes temptations are unhealthy, but sometimes urges are our body’s signals that we need something. Instead of trying to overcome all your desires, try recognizing your needs and meeting them. That way, you’ll have energy and willpower left to tackle the habits that are actually harming you.
If you’re craving sweets, take a moment to think about why. Are you actually hungry? If so, get something to eat. Are you emotionally distressed? It might be a good time to journal or call a friend. Once you address your need, you may find that the craving has gone away, or at least that you now have more willpower to resist it.
Mindfulness can help you increase your willpower by decreasing your stress and allowing you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. It can also be a practice in willpower itself, as you resist the temptation to move through your life quickly and instead choose to take moments to slow down.
Meditation is one of the most popular mindfulness practices. It’s a great technique to start with because you can do it anywhere, for any length of time. If you’re new to meditation, try using short guided meditations.
You can also practice mindfulness in different ways. Being mindful is essentially the practice of slowing down and noticing your thoughts and feelings and the world around you. You can do this by taking a walk, making time for a leisurely meal, or even stopping to appreciate small things in your life.
Sometimes the best way to get more willpower is to eliminate the need for it. Avoiding some temptations entirely can make things much easier on yourself. If you’re trying to stop eating chips, it will be a lot harder if there’s a bag of chips right in front of you. On the other hand, if you have to go to the store and buy them, you may decide that it’s not worth the effort.
Take Charge of Your Life
Now that you have a better understanding of how willpower works, you can use it to take control of your life. As you learn to grow your willpower and use it wisely, it will become a force you can use, rather than something that constantly seems to be missing. You’ll come to have greater confidence in your abilities and more power to change your habits and control your behavior.
As you embark on this exciting journey, remember that no personal growth process is easy. It’s natural to make mistakes and get frustrated. Always have compassion for yourself when this happens. Make sure to notice your progress, even if it seems small. And most importantly, keep going. The best way to get where you want to be is to never give up.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.