Suppose someone offers you a magic pill that will enhance your willpower.
It promises you’ll never run out of your willpower.
Oh what a dream…
So you, like everyone else, jump on the opportunity, grab the pill and swallow it right there and then before the once a lifetime opportunity disappears.
We all want super willpower so we can do more of the things that benefit us and less of the things that don’t.
Unfortunately, time after time, we disappoint ourselves by the lack of willpower.
Why can’t I be stronger, beat the temptations and do things I know that are good for me and my life?
From hitting the snooze button in the morning to missing a deadline at work or school, being addicted to food, alcohol or substances, when we let our emotions run the show, life becomes chaotic with a series of a letdown.
If you’re struggling with a lack of willpower, below are two simple steps to exercise and increase your willpower.
(Until someone develops that magic pill, of course.)
2 Simple Steps to Exercise and Increase Willpower
Don’t Lead Yourself Into the Trap
Start by telling myself, “I’ll read 2 chapters and sleep”. But it’d be a miracle if it worked out that way.
No, I’d just stay up all night, take a couple of hours’ sleep and carry on reading until I finish the entire series.
Sleep deprivation became normal among many other things.
When I started taking personal development seriously, I realised I had to give up reading fiction in the evening.
I just knew myself too well that one more chapter would never end with one chapter.
You and Your Fragile Willpower
Let’s say you’re planning to work on your side project after work.
Writing a book, publishing a blog post, learning to code, creating an app or making extra money, you desperately want to make your future more secure and meaningful.
The thing is, you made the same plan the day before. In fact, for a few days straight.
You meant to watch TV for an hour while cooking and eating.
But you ended up spending the entire evening glued to the TV and went to bed feeling hopeless, defeated and upset.
When a new day begins, your seemingly rational voice tells you again:
It’s going to be different today. I swear I’ll stick to just one hour TV today.
The moment your not-so-reliable voice chimes in, rationalising and justifying your behaviour, you know it’s time to bail out.
It’s time to admit that you can’t trust yourself. It won’t be just one hour watching TV like it won’t be just one more chapter for me.
When you have fragile willpower that constantly lets you down, honesty is indeed the best policy.
Assess the past couple of days or weeks as honestly as you can.
The past pattern tells you you will lose your willpower as soon as you walk into the temptation.
It’s a trap.
A recovering gambler would avoid going to Vegas on holiday.
He’s honest and courageous enough to say he can’t trust himself and does not dare to put him (and his willpower) in a compromising position.
So he avoids taking part in the game he’ll lose.
When you walk in your sanctuary after a long day of work, turn on the music, not the TV.
Listen to music while cooking and eating instead of watching TV.
It’s easy to pick up your side project and start working while listening to music.
It’s impossible to do the same watching the TV (unless your side hustle is filling in surveys!).
The temptation to carry on watching a few more shows is too great for your fragile willpower right now.
The best defence to such temptation is to avoid it altogether.
Use Your Vice to Exercise and Increase Willpower
Can you imagine the power of giving up what you love voluntarily?
The beauty is in that no one is forcing you to give up what you love.
You choose one vice voluntarily to improve health or finances, e.g. sugar, snacks, caffeine or spending money.
And make a mission to conquer the temptation for a day or for a week.
Giving up what you love voluntarily may seem trivial, but it’s not.
It opens up a new beginning as it gives you the confidence you can exercise willpower.
You prove to yourself you have enough willpower.
It may not be as strong as you like it to be (yet) but it’s enough to get the ball rolling.
And like a muscle, with more practice of giving up our vice, our willpower increases.
Take advantage of your vice to strengthen your willpower.
Our vice is an excellent source for us to exercise and increase willpower.
But as a complete novice, you wouldn’t want to start 72 hours fasting right away.
No, please don’t do that.
Instead, go for one-day fasting. Or have two meals instead of the usual 6 meals a day. Ha.
Aside from the health benefits, the voluntary restriction on a primal need makes you realise you’re no longer a slave to food and your mood doesn’t have to depend on food.
The feeling is liberating.
By giving up stuff you take for granted, you also appreciate them more.
If your vice is spending money, take no spend day challenge.
Do you feel 30 days is too long? Make it a weekend challenge.
After each challenge or restriction, you’ll want to explore more challenges as you experience the benefits.
Having built enough willpower during my personal development journey, I can now read fiction in the evening if I want to.
Occasionally, I may go past my bedtime, but I still have enough willpower to call it a day to have a productive day next day.
Knowing your weakness and avoiding the situation that’ll likely compromise you and your willpower is the first step you should take when you want to exercise and increase willpower.
And pick your vice and give it up voluntarily and regularly.
We may not see muscle growth over night after daily exercise, but our muscle gets worked on and hardened.
So are our willpower and self-control with every little effort we make.
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