How often do you wish you were more disciplined?
Chances are, if you spent all this time taking baby steps towards more willpower instead of lamenting your lack of it, you’d be halfway there already.
Today you’re not getting off the hook for once.
You could have more self-control less than 10 minutes from now.
These ten things can be done in 60 seconds or less and won’t cost you a penny.
Are you in?
I thought so.
Let’s do it!
1. Switch hands
Whatever hand you’re using to read this right now, switch to the other hand.
Just do it, already!
Flanders was on to something when he built the Leftorium.
Whether you’re scrolling your index finger down a trackpad, your thumb down a touchscreen or you printed this out and hold it in your hand (yeah, right), switch to using your other, non-dominant hand.
Roy Baumeister (the Elon Musk of willpower research) did a study in which participants had to use their non-preferred hand for tasks such as brushing teeth, stirring drinks, using a computer mouse, carrying items, eating, and opening doors for two weeks.
Result: People were less vulnerable to ego depletion aka loss of willpower.
2. Push ups!
You know how many you can do. I want you to do one more.
Can you do ten? Do eleven. Five? Do six. Zero? That’s okay. Then do one.
The discipline to exceed your known limits, even by just an inch, not only removes limiting beliefs you hold about yourself, but also builds further discipline by delaying gratification.
So even if you have the exercise habits of a sloth, one set of push ups will get you much further than you think.
Note: You should aim to exercise regularly nevertheless, it’s an even bigger willpower booster, as proven in studies.
3. Get some nuts!
Remember the Snickers Mr. T commercials from a while ago? He wasn’t too wrong when he yelled “Get some nuts!” all over the place.
(click the image for the best one)
Grab some walnuts, or other nuts high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as pecans or cashews, and throw them in your nutritional fuel tank. They’ve been shown to improve cognitive function.
Note: I know, I know, nuts aren’t free, but come on, who doesn’t have a bunch of nuts lying around the house?
4. Take a cold shower
Stepping up to the plate and overcoming the fear of cold water in the morning is one of the simplest and quickest ways to get some serious willpower points into your account.
It just may be the slight difference between keeping your composure when your boss yells at you at work, or throwing a tantrum and binge eating donuts while crying under your desk.
The effect is more psychological than physical, but you not giving in to cold water will give you the confidence to also not give in when the going gets tough later in the day (and it will).
Plus, this is only one out of 7 benefits of cold showers, so there are 6 more reasons to take one.
Jump in with cold, hold it for a few seconds, rinse warm and finish with cold for 60 seconds of seriously boosting your willpower.
5. Meditate for 1 minute
Next to physical exercise, meditation has been shown to be another practice, which can improve your willpower.
It increases the gray matter in your brain, the region with the highest density of neurons, which is involved in muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and, you guessed it: self-control.
Tip: The biggest mistake people make when meditating is that they think meditation is only successful when you stop thinking. This is BS. No one, and I mean NO ONE, can stop their mind from thinking.
The only point of a successful meditation practice is to focus your attention on one thing, to help your mind create a sort of shield around it, making it able to protect itself from intrusive thoughts. Think this:
The 1 minute meditation:
Simply close your eyes and breathe as you normally would, but pay very close attention to it. Feel your nostrils flaring, your chest rising, and your heart beating.
The beauty of this 1-minute-meditation is that you can do it anywhere.
To my surprise I found it works especially well in really crowded places. For example I did this last year on my way to work in the packed subway sometimes, and it really grounded me.
6. Make a fist
Yup, time for a fist pump!
Roy Baumeister’s study from above has been done and re-done several times. Researchers have now confirmed that building discipline is a self-enhancing loop:
Exercising self-control builds more self-control.
92 adults took part in a study testing their self-control before and after 2 weeks of self-control exercises, like reducing their intake of sweets and pressing a handgrip twice a day.
Result: The control groups (who solved math problems and kept a diary, which are different than actively restraining yourself) performed on the same level, while the willpower builders’ results improved.
So clench your fist, squeeze it hard and hold it for a while. Even this lightweight version of the hand grip will make you mentally stronger.
No wonder Obama fist bumps people all the time. Just another way for him to build willpower.
7. Do the opposite of what you’re doing right now
One of the many ways Spongebob drove Squidward to the edge of insanity with was Opposite Day.
Squidward ran screaming at the idea of making it a national holiday, but the yellow, little sponge has science on his side.
Similar to switching hands, any time you consciously override your behavior, it strengthens your resolve.
So whatever you’re doing right now, simply do the opposite.
Are you sitting? Stand up.
Are you standing? Walk.
Are you walking? Stand still.
And so on. There are easily over 50 ways you could be doing the opposite of what you’re currently doing right now.
If the muscles in your face are tense, because you’re thinking hard, relax them (like your jar, cheeks and forehead).
Not blinking your eyes very often, because you’re looking at a screen reading this? Consciously blink a few times.
Your butt cheeks are likely to be relaxed on the other hand, so it might be worth pinching them for a second.
In these little ways you can make every day Opposite Day, and let your brain reap the benefits.
8. Mentally prepare for the next obstacle
Think of one thing that could go wrong today.
Just knowing it might go wrong will make you less likely to falter if it does.
If you expect your dog to pee right outside the building in the parking lot, you’ll have less of a freakout when she does.
What’s more, just considering points of failure in advance, allows you to create a fallback for them.
For example you could just leave your building through the backdoor and avoid the parking lot altogether, or have your dog at least pee somewhere less crowded.
When you know you’re likely to give in to your cravings for red wine at night, put a bottle of cranberry juice in the spot in the fridge where your wine usually is.
This will give you a chance of redemption in a “Screw this, I’m getting my sip!” moment.
Thinking ahead and preparing for the storm will let you keep your cool when it hits.
9. Make a decision in advance
Decide what you’re going to have for dinner. Like, right now.
Taking decisions off the table by pre-committing to a certain choice is a well-known concept of avoiding decision fatigue.
You’re much more likely to choose junk food for dinner when you have to decide the moment you’re hungry and worn out.
But if you and your friend settled on shell fish at lunch already, there is nothing left to decide.
This concept is called pared-down decisions, and many successful people practice it.
Some examples are: Mark Zuckerberg (choice of clothes), Tim Ferriss (same breakfast), Gary Vaynerchuk (always calls a family member in the car to work) and Barack Obama (only has suits of 2 colors).
Your capability of making good decisions is limited. You might have 100 a day, or 50, but when they’re gone, they’re gone.
So don’t waste them on petty things.