Willpower: A New “Muscle” Group

Did you know that willpower behaves like a muscle?

Your ability to stay focused and stay at the top of your game, regardless of the size of the stressor, is directly related to how often you use your willpower and to what extent.  Similar to resistance training or cardiovascular training, proper usage and consistency lead to a stronger will. Here are some ways to fortify your willpower with everyday actions.

Start Slow

Set your own ground rules. The goal is to keep as organized and stress-free throughout your day as possible. This is not a competition. Set guidelines that work for your lifestyle and comfort level. Like Lou says, “A champion is not made overnight.” Pace yourself.

Take Pride in Small Victories

For some, drinking that morning cup of coffee without the milk and sugar and take the stairs instead of the elevator is a minor change and thus a minor drain on willpower. For others, however, changing the formula of your sacred morning joe is a hard hit to their reserve of daily willpower. Instead of beating yourself up for not having the willpower to take on all those changes, choose one. Pat yourself on the back for accomplishing one out of three, maybe bypass the sugar this week. Add the stairs next week. Treat every change, no matter how small, as a victory. You deserve it.

More is Not a Crowd

Motivation doesnʼt just have to come from within exclusively. Friends and partners with the same values can help you stay on track and support your willpower reserve by balancing your moods, providing much needed fun on off days, provide a sounded board for concerns, and supply an overall boost of moral support.

Keep a Diary

Writing your thoughts about your day – the good and the bad – can be a helpful tool in strengthening your willpower. This way, you can pinpoint recurring stressors, identify your major drains of willpower, and also focus on the things, events, and/or people that seem to give you a boost. Use this information to create a lifestyle that minimizes the bad and maximizes the good.

Read of Otherʼs Challenges and How They Overcame Them

Books and movies about people who overcame difficulties can inspirational. But remember, donʼt compare or judge yourself. Use their tools and apply them to your life regardless of what challenges you.

Challenge Yourself

But donʼt frustrate yourself. Like a regular muscle, you must constantly be training and mixing things up to get the best results. So when you’ve met a goal and feel good about it, take on your next task. After you’ve been able to run a mile without stopping, maybe add some sit-ups at the end of the run.

Reward Yourself

So you did that ʻonce around the blockʼ routine at lunch everyday this week. You started easy, made it part if your routine, and now there is little or no need to call upon your willpower to get you to do it. All of a sudden there is more willpower in reserve for some other bigger, tougher challenge of the day. Stop and take a moment to enjoy it. Thank yourself. Make a list of rewards and pick one for a job well done.

Eat, Exercise and Sleep

You can’t discuss healthy living without the mention of nutrition, rest, and exercise. But how you build it into your life is what’s important.  Understanding your body and your lifestyle will help you pick the best times to workout as well as the right times to challenge yourself throughout the day. Some people prefer to get their exercise in first thing in the morning. Others like to use it to relax after a long day at work. Others like to enjoy a hearty breakfast with a small dinner. And still others can make do with a small meal to start the day with lunch as their main meal. Find what fits for you and you’re more likely to stick with it.

New Years Resolutions

Starting the New Year with 12 resolutions never works. Why? Because no one has the willpower to change so many things at once.  What inevitably happens is that all your resolutions are forgotten and you feel like a failure. The truth is, you are no different than that person who did get six-pack abs by summer or that person who did quit smoking. You just took on more than your willpower could handle. When making changes to your lifestyle, attack one thing at a time – even then, break down that one thing into much smaller things. Take the time you need to work out the layers of trouble. In time, you can knock that off of your list of reoccurring willpower-draining episodes, give yourself that reward, and move on.

The Bottom Line

You only need to answer to yourself. Keep a sense of humor and a positive attitude. Donʼt feel defeated by setbacks, illness, or a day that you just didnʼt feel like it. Tomorrow is another day. If you have the resolve to brush yourself off and keep going, you will be successful.





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