We’ve all admired people who seem to possess will power that we ourselves lack. From saying no to desserts to winning marathons, these models of self-restraint and self-control seem to be blessed with a power we are apparently denied; but psychological research shows that will is a skill which can be developed and enhanced.
Keystone habits give a big boost to will power. Building good routines of meal times, sleep times etc. make it much easier to resist temptation. Regular exercise spills over into other spheres of life. It starts changing patterns at work, at home, and in the company of friends. The essentials of exercise – controlled breathing, stretching muscles, eating healthier – leads to better self-control and greater productivity.
According to researcher Roy Baumeister, will power is limited. It peaks early in the day but fizzles out as the hours pass by with us making continuous decisions. Prioritizing tasks helps to achieve more and deadlines are more attainable if you pursue them early in the day.
By putting yourself in the driver’s seat and manipulating your environment, you can facilitate decision-making. Hide the cookies, or even better, don’t buy them; put the running shoes next to your bed, put a reminder on your bedside table for the most important task for the next day.
Set realistic goals. Sports coaches always advise trainees to alternate between comfort zones and stretch zones. Give yourself some leeway for indulgence. Being on a constant stretch of denial will lead to a breakdown of will power rather than the building of it.
Use your imagination. The body achieves what the mind believes. When you already see yourself in a particular place, you’re more likely to get there faster. One step at a time will reduce the enormity of goals, so visualize yourself on the next step of the ladder and you’ll get to the top soon enough.
More than anything else, be yourself. Psychologist Mark Muraven advises that you stop trying to be a people-pleaser and do things because you genuinely feel like doing them. Improving your self-image is a healthy stimulant to enhancing will power, trying to constantly live up to others’ expectations is a frustrating exercise in futility.