How to Increase Willpower and Determination
Originally published at FixWillpower.
One of the most frequent questions I get from friends and colleagues is:
Is it possible to increase willpower?
Yes! And it’s scalable!
What I mean by scalable is that no matter what’s your willpower level at the moment, you can find a task that fits you. If you think you have no willpower at all, then find something really easy to do:
- Wash one plate
- Put one clothing item in the closet
- Do one pushup or squat after you wake up
The mistake many people make is that they start to train their willpower from the hardest tasks they can find:
- Clean the whole house
- Get your inbox to zero emails
- Run every day
Do not do that!
Let’s say that you go to the gym, put 300 pounds (136kg) on the bar, and are unable to push it up from your chest 10 times. The chances are that you may not be able to do it. Does it mean that you are a failure?
No! It doesn’t! You have to start with the weights that you can work with. Then gradually you will get to the level where you can bench press 400 pounds (181kg).
It will take time, but you have to start at the level that you can handle.
From my personal experience, when I started running, I ran for a minute and then walked a minute. I covered maybe max 3 miles (5km). Last summer I ran 105.5km that is two and a half marathons back to back.
One willpower exercise that I use myself and recommend as a really easy place to start from is brushing your teeth. Now, there are levels to this. If you don’t brush your teeth, then start doing it.
If you brush your teeth every day, then switch hands. Start brushing your teeth with your weaker hand. If you have brushed your teeth with your right hand up until now, switch the hand to left.
That is it! You will feel no a fair bit of discomfort in the beginning, but it is one of the easiest ways to gradually increase willpower.
Is willpower self-control?
The short answer:
So, what’s the difference?
Willpower is the mental energy you have. Some people have more of it the other less. Willpower is a finite resource. If you are working on some very demanding tasks, then you will run out of willpower and can’t continue.
Sometimes you have more willpower than you think you have. In this case, you think that you have given your all and cannot continue, but then you find a hidden reserve and can go on.
No matter how large your willpower reserves are, you will run out of it if the task is too big for you. But it’s possible to for you to increase willpower with practice.
Self-control is the action you take. You use willpower to control yourself. For example, when you are running a long distance race, and there’s only a little bit left. You may feel that you have nothing more to give and quit the race. But you can pull yourself together and finish the race.
The difference is how much willpower reserves you still have. For example, you can increase willpower to stop smoking or to achieve other specific goals.