Increase Willpower

A young man is working out at the gym.Six Simple Steps to Increase Willpower

Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive, no matter what they feel, by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear.            — Dan Millman

The young man in the picture has selected his goal. He has begun to gain weight. His goal is to stick to a regular exercise schedule, working out at the gym for one hour three times a week.  He plans to lose ten pounds and continue to get regular exercise for the entire school year and longer.

You can Increase Your Willpower

1. Choose One Goal.   Start by defining your goals.

Do NOT try to lose weight, stop smoking, and study harder all at the same time. New Years’ Resolutions generally fail because we don’t concentrate on a single goal.

2. The Goal must be Specific and Realistic.

Making better grades is vague. Make an A in Ancient History is specific, but if you are failing the class, an A may not be realistic.  Raising your grade from an F to a C is specific and realistic.

Losing weight is vague. Lose 100 pounds this month is  specific but unrealistic.  Losing two pounds a week is specific and realistic. Or you might aim to lose 15 pounds in two months.

3. Create a Plan.  If you stop  with just a goal, you have only made a wish. Wishing doesn’t make it so.  Describe the goal for each month, for each week, for each day. List several small steps to help you reach your goals.

4. Keeping a Journal is Essential. This can be an ordinary notebook. Write the date and state your goal clearly. Describe how you plan to reach your goal (your plan).  Some people find it helpful to include inspirational quotes, cartoons, pictures, etc.

5. Evaluate your progress daily.  In your journal, describe daily accomplishments, problems, how you felt about your experiences, and what you might do differently next time.

If you want to lose weight,  create meal plans, set a maximum number of calories, plan kind of exercise and when you’ll do it.  record everything you eat. Weigh yourself regularly. Reflect each day about when it was easy to stick to your diet, what temptations you faced and what you learned.

To stop smoking, set daily goal. Record the number of cigarettes smoked, when you smoked them and why. Describe temptations you faced when you chose not to smoke, and when you slipped and had another cigarette.

To improve grades, consider the time needed to complete all reading and assignments plus regular study, creat a weekly schedule for this and other classes, plan to finish  papers on time (or early). Use a calendar to spread out the work in a way that everything will be done well without needing to do most of the work at the last minute.  Keep track about the actual time you spend and how much you accomplish. Will you need more time to reach your goals? Again,each day,  list your accomplishments, where you made wise choices, what tempted you to waste time and not finish your daily tasks, and write about how you can improve.

To manage your money more carefully, keep a record of your daily spending, create a realistic budget, and a plan to stick to that budget. You might, for example, decide that, with $100 spending money each month, to withdraw only $15 each week, leaving $40 a month to accumulate for emergencies or major purchases. Keep a careful record of your spending and reflect on impulse purchases of things you didn’t really need.

6. End each day by celebrating your successes, not matter how small. What are you most proud of?  Even if you didn’t actually reach any goals, you may have resisted temptation to do even less. That’s a step in the right direction

Sometimes students have a friend hold them accountable. You could email your friend weekly with your weight, with the number of cigarettes smoked each day, with your accomplishments in reaching study goals, or how well you stuck to your budget. You could also share your plans for the next week. Making our efforts public helps us resist temptation.

Now for the Bonus Reward

Research shows  that when a person works steadily to reach one goal, especially when she keeps a journal to  reflect on her  experience and to write new plans, that she is likely to find herself beginning to increase willpower in other areas.

The research in this area is a great story. It began with four-year-olds being offered a marshmallow. When the “Marshmallow Kids” reached college, surprising results were discovered.

The “Marshmallow Kids” grow up: Research on Willpower

Willpower Research on Adults

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One Response to Increase Willpower

  1. googlepo says:

    Really enjoyed this! Well done!

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