Building Up Willpower

Devil Angel Choice

“The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.”

– Dale Carnegie

In today’s day and age we have so many things around to tempt us.

So many things exist that can easily distract us from doing what we have to do.

Facebook, Twitter, the internet in general really, video games, television – we can now download or stream anything we want to watch at the mere click of a button. This is only a small list of the many technologies that have emerged and that we have managed to abuse.

I know there have been many times when I’ve binge-watched (yes, this is a term now…) entire seasons of T.V. shows just because I had the ability to do so. And I still had work to do! Imagine what I could have accomplished not just for work, but for myself had I resisted the urge to vegetate in front of the T.V.

When I say “tempt” and “distract” us, I don’t just mean things that keep us from writing that term paper or starting that workload due next week; Health-wise it is easy to get distracted from goals of a healthier body when we have diversions like convenient fast food restaurants lining the streets, alcohol that some of us drink to excess making it so we are unable to function the next day, and the myriad of other unhealthy things that we knowingly or unknowingly put in our bodies on a daily basis.

I know there have been many times when I’ve picked up a cheeseburger from a fast food joint in less than 5 minutes because I was sure I didn’t have time for anything else – yet think of how just a little bit of forethought might have helped: I could have cooked a meal earlier in the week that could have been heated up at home in less than 5 minutes and gotten back to work just as quickly; and, there are plenty of grocery stores that have salad bars which can easily be made in less than 5 minutes.

We are not out of options, we just need to resist the gold and red signs in our faces every day and plan a little better.

And how do we resist these everyday urges and temptations that are perpetually thrown at us?

We increase our willpower.

Some Options for Increasing Willpower


An article written by Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl, gives us a few options to work with:

1. Take a small self-regulatory task and stick with it. Studies show even a mere two weeks’ worth of repeating a task daily improves willpower.

2. REST. 7-9 hours of sleep is plenty of time. If you think you don’t have enough time to get that kind of sleep, then look at what time you’re going to bed.

3. Work earlier in the day. It is a lot more difficult to muster up the same vigor you had in the morning over the course of the whole day – so give yourself a set amount of time where you will work your hardest.

4. Be positive. This I can’t stress enough. So much research suggests that positive thoughts keep the mind healthy and alert. And honestly, you don’t even need to look at the research: when was the last time that you’ve wanted to do anything when you were angry or sad? I know that when I get like that all I want to do is sit and stew about it. I have to force myself out of that mood and focus on more important things.

5. Plan ahead. Planning ahead is very important. While it might be impossible to predict everything the world can throw at us, it sure doesn’t hurt to have a contingency plan when something inevitably happens. Even if it’s as simple and vague as, “If I burn my toast in the morning, I’ll grab an apple instead.”

6. Keep some fruit handy. According to the good Dr. Pychyl, “a single act of self-regulation has been shown to reduce the amount of available glucose in the bloodstream, impairing later self-regulatory attempts.” We need to keep our bodies in-check in order to maintain the willpower that we have.

7. Understand that social situations can be mentally taxing. Whether you are an introvert of an extrovert, social situations are very demanding. We are constantly thinking of the right things to say and the right way to say them, as well as battling the discomfort that comes with interacting with people when we don’t really want to (here’s looking at you introverts!).

8. Motivation. When we’re feeling down or uninterested in continuing something in the moment, try to drive yourself by reminding yourself why exactly you’re doing what you’re doing. While we may hate what we’re doing at the moment, we need to look past the present and look at what we hope to accomplish – what our goals and aspirations are.

Getting motivated and staying motivated is one of the most difficult things for us. Yet, we are not beyond help. Work on increasing your willpower today!