How to improve your willpower

Would you like to be more successful? Research suggests that it’s all about willpower. Having good willpower and self-control has been linked to higher levels of success in every aspect of life – from improved mental and physical health, to being liked.

According to Dr Roy Baumeister, the Francis Eppes Eminent Scholar in the psychology department at Florida State University, willpower can help us achieve any goal we choose. He also says the notion that some people have naturally better willpower than others is a myth.

“It’s not a constant feature of your character that you have good or bad willpower,” Dr Baumeister said. “It certainly can be improved. It’s not something locked in.”

Most of the time, people who show the best willpower are making concerted efforts to avoid temptation. For example, a person battling a sweet tooth won’t allow themselves to walk down the confectionary aisle in the supermarket.  

So how can you boost your willpower? Here are some points to keep in mind that Dr Baumeister recommends:

1.      Exercise the willpower muscle

Like any muscle, willpower requires regular training to become stronger. Practicing self-control activities, such as eating smaller portions and smoking fewer cigarettes each day, are good ways to start. It’s about being consistent. “Overriding habitual ways of doing things” and “exerting deliberate control over your actions,” he says.

2.      Don’t overdo it

No one taps into an infinite source of willpower – it takes energy to have self-control. It’s important to make sure that you don’t overdo it and end up sapping your motivation. You might find it easy to resist temptation early in the day, but by the afternoon that chocolate bar is looking mighty irresistible. Here, it’s about being mindful about what you want and what you actually need to keep going.

3.      Sugar helps – no, really!

Ironically (for those trying to cut down on snacks) the energy that fuels willpower is glucose. Our body needs certain foods to produce glucose, which the blood then carries to the brain, muscles and organs.

Research shows that people don’t perform optimally when their glucose levels drop. But don’t reach for your lolly stash straight away. High-sugar snacks will cause your glucose to peak temporarily, but the only way to give yourself a sustained boost throughout the day is with wholefoods containing carbohydrates and natural sugars.

How do you manage your willpower?


Amelia Theodorakis
Amelia Theodorakis
A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.
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