Eleven Steps to Develop your Willpower

Jun 06, 2019

What make a person successful? What qualities of personality can be considered the key to well-being — success at work, happy family life, and confidence in the future? According to psychologists, one of these “keys” is willpower. Ways of developing self-control have already been studied and applied by many people in practice. Lack of willpower is not a life sentence. People’s willpower can be strengthened. In this article, we will look at ways how to become decisive and confident, disciplined and restrained.


Eleven steps to developing your willpower

How do willpower and discipline help in life?

Willpower is one of the most important personal qualities, which helps an individual to achieve tremendous results in all social spheres of life. [1]

Willpower is inherently the ability to surmount difficulties and achieve your goals. It is this quality that determines success in getting results from a particular activity. With advanced self-control, it is much easier for a person to part with acquired bad habits, such as smoking and overeating. The person stays calm and cool, keeps his/her temper, and easily overcomes the acute desire to do what is best not to do at all. A person with an iron will is concentrated, organized, and knows exactly how to set a goal and achieve it.

By improving willpower, an individual develops:

  • determination,
  • commitment,
  • insistence,
  • courage,
  • moderation.

A person lacking willpower is a dependent person

“I’m 25 years old, but I already feel “broken” like I’m an old man. I grew up not in the most prosperous environment – my father drank, my mother worked all the time, and I had problems at school. Everyone around me was constantly telling me that I am a good-for-nothing person. Even having grown up and moved away from my parents, the idea that I was a loser and a weakling did not leave me. I still can’t get rid of it. Whatever I plan, I’m afraid to start and take the first step. It seems that my train has left the station. It’s very disturbing at work. Perhaps that’s why I don’t have a proper career, even though I’ve been with the company for many years. I’m afraid of dating with girls. Of course, I’m still single.  I want to change my life, but I can’t do anything —  I’m going into some stupor. I tried to start simply — at least quit smoking. But no, I can’t stand it for more than a couple of weeks without cigarettes. I know I need to develop willpower, but I don’t know how to do it.”

– Evgeniy, 25

A man with weak willpower risks becoming an eternal slave to his/her desires and habits. Led by blind instincts, sooner or later he completely loses control of his life.

It seems that there is nothing wrong with living easily — without self-control and discipline. But over time it becomes a habit, numerous “indulgences” prevent the development and achievement of one’s goals. Here’s a simple example. At first, a person simply allows himself to sleep a little longer in the morning, and then, when willpower stops, problems with constant delays and lateness begin.

A w-willed person is likely to be:

  • amenable to manipulation of surrounding people,
  • at the mercy of bad habits,
  • undetermined,
  • disorganized,
  • dependent,
  • lazy,
  • prone to depression.

One of the characteristics of powerless people is the awareness of the problem. Yes, they know that their lack of self-control complicates life, but they do nothing to correct the situation. They may have a keen desire to change something, but the “deficiency” of the will prevents them from saying a clear “no” to their desires and to start acting boldly.

Studies show that the vast majority of personal and social problems arise precisely against the background of undeveloped self-control. Psychologists cite the following examples of consequences — a propensity for excessive spending and bank loans, impulsive violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and a craving for unhealthy diets. [2]

Is it possible to develop willpower and self-discipline?

A person can be weak-willed due to the innate features of a higher nervous function. For example, melancholic and sanguine individuals delay for a long time before getting down to business and are less disciplined. In general, however, willpower is not an innate personality quality or a superpower that is “triggered” in extreme conditions. It can and should be developed.

Just as we pump our muscles at the gym, we can develop endurance and self-control. The main thing is to aim for the result, not to retreat and constantly work on yourself. In the absence of regular mental and emotional stress, willpower, like muscle tone, atrophies and becomes weak.

Why does a person indulge in weaknesses?

Not all people have willpower at the “highest level.” One may easily keep his/her desires under control, while another cannot resist temptations which do not allow development, and sometimes greatly complicate life. It is quite possible to achieve a positive result in strengthening the will, but first, you need to understand the causes that can create weak will.

Why is it difficult for a person to resist numerous temptations and become decisive in achieving goals? Psychologists highlight several main reasons.

  1. The desire to yield to temptation is the body’s natural response

Human behavior is caused by millions of years of evolution, which have influenced how our body works. Food, for example, should be eaten in abundance when available for a drought may start tomorrow and there will be no harvest. It is necessary to mate with a beautiful female, otherwise the competitors will get ahead. To become a leader it is better to bite the weakest in the pack.

In today’s society, the body’s automatic response to temptation leads to problems. For a normal life in society, a person needs to show restraint in many ways and control desires. It is necessary to “force” yourself to get up early for work every day. You need to have a minimum livelihood, to control your diet, not to be obese and to be restrained in statements and actions. All of this requires willpower.

Even the simplest tasks requiring self-control are hard for many people. There are a lot of examples of failures — breakdowns of diets, futile attempts to quit smoking, unwillingness to do one or another job, and spontaneous purchases. [3]

  1. Impulsiveness

According to psychologists, impulsivity is the most important behavioral feature that increases the likelihood of problems with self-control. This is a person’s predisposition to rapid, unplanned reactions to external or internal stimuli without taking into account the possible negative consequences.

An impulsive person first reacts automatically and then thinks later. He/she is constantly at the mercy of emotions and desires.

Of course, every person from time to time succumbs to momentary temptations. For some this happens more often, jeopardizing their futures. In such cases, we can talk about impulsiveness as a significant character trait that results in serious problems with self-control.  [3]

  1. Compulsive thoughts

Scientists have conducted many experiments to understand whether obsessive thoughts help to achieve one’s goals. It turned out that this is not the case. To some extent, positive ideas about the object of desire motivate great achievements and train willpower. When a person thinks only about a specific goal, however and forgets about everything else, it becomes a scenario for depression. Any failure will be perceived as a complete collapse of hope. [3]

Here is a simple example. A person trying to lose weight constantly thinks “I need to get in shape by summer”. This is excellent motivation for revising the menu and buying a gym membership. When a person thinks only about the goal and about food that he/she cannot eat, this is a great test of willpower. This does not temper but lowers self-esteem – the diet breakdown becomes just a stone’s throw away.

  1. Emotions

Emotions sometimes overwhelm so much that even a “steel” will is unable to stop the negative actions that the person is going to perform.

In the scientific community, there is a hypothesis that fiercely struggling with natural emotions such as “I can’t cry, I’m strong”; “I need to smile, I’m polite”, results in the person doing the opposite. Rather than tempering willpower it tends to destroys it. [3]

How do you cope with procrastination?

“I have been concerned about the problem for several years: I cannot live a full life because of strong procrastination. Time after time everything I love gets crumbled to dust. Lately, I’ve been afraid of losing the little I have.

I am acutely disgusted with the word “need.” No matter how loved the activity is, when it becomes mandatory, I can’t complete the task. It’s like I’m paralyzed. I was never able to finish my studies at a prestigious university because I was in a constant state of depression from endless sessions and practices. I can’t hold on to any job for more than six months for I don’t like the big rush and the challenges that management constantly throws up. I tried to do what I dreamed of as a child, but even then my plans were broken by procrastination. I can’t maintain my health with sports. I started to go to fitness classes many times, but every time I quit, attending only a couple of workouts.

Now I have nothing that would give me the incentive to achieve my goals. A lack of willpower is my eternal companion. I don’t know what it’s about though, is it a fear of losing, or vice versa, of winning? By all means I strive to avoid reality and close myself to everything. I try to be at that minimum level of comfort, which allows me to live and not be obliged to anyone. I don’t know how to become purposeful and at least achieve some small thing in my life.”

– Irina, 30

Think about how often you find a lot of other activities before the handover of an important project at work or before going to the dentist. What do you do to avoid the main task? This is procrastination.

Procrastination in psychology is a tendency to constantly postpone even important and urgent activities, leading to serious problems and painful psychological effects. At its core, procrastination is complete paralysis of the will, which prevents you from enjoying life and achieving your goals. [4]

People prone to procrastination are often called lazy. However, it is not that simple. It is very easy to distinguish procrastination from laziness. A lazy person is not bothered by things that have not been fulfilled according to  plan, while in procrastination guilty feelings and dissatisfaction with oneself is paramount.

Psychologists highlight several main reasons why a person procrastinates:

  • lack of interest in a particular case;
  • weak motivation to do something;
  • uncertainty of the ultimate goal;
  • overwork and moral exhaustion;
  • bad experiences from the past which inspire doubt;
  • fear of poor appreciation and criticism for the work done;
  • fear of responsibility for the completed work;
  • the habit of doing any thing at the last moment. [4]

When you struggle with procrastination, you test your willpower. So, how can you develop self-control by bracing your energies and actions? According to psychologists, the simplest methods of working on yourself can have a positive effect.

  1. Keep a to-do list

A clear current affairs plan will save you from procrastination. Just write in your notebook what exactly should have been executed by the end of the day. The most difficult thing is to follow the plan clearly without delaying the deadline.

  1. Do an unpleasant thing right away

Doing an unpleasant thing right away – it’s like jumping into cold water without hesitation You might approach the shore several times, but then doubt and retreat again. It is better to change your behavior habits, activate willpower and immediately perform an unpleasant task. It will turn out that your to-do list will be one point shorter.

  1. Find a “companion”

Scientists claim that when a person is shoulder to shoulder with someone he/she trusts does, even unpleasant things are performed more willingly. Therefore, if there is such an opportunity, do not perform the task alone. The presence of a “companion” gives a boost to willpower allowing you to quickly cope with the situation. [4]

  1. Procrastinate according to plan

Not everyone accepts strict schedules. You can try to go down the path of least resistance. Do not to forbid yourself to procrastinate but engage in “doing nothing” strictly on schedule. Include in the to-do list some free time between important tasks. This way you will not be bound by strict limits. Usefully procrastinate — actively relax, and get ready for upcoming affairs.

This is likely be successful because it is not the procrastination that is controlling you, but rather you are managing it.

  1. Set a deadline in days, not weeks

Scientists, having conducted studies, found that people who need to complete a task in 3 weeks are more likely to fail to meet the deadline than those who know that they have 21 days. On a subconscious level an individual can better feel the connection with the future when time is measured by days, rather than weeks, months, or years. Accordingly, he/she undertakes the task faster. [4]

Do it the same way. When writing down long-term plans, indicate your deadline in days.

  1. Enjoy doing unpleasant things

For those who are familiar with procrastination, it is important to learn to enjoy it when you have completed tasks. This is especially true of the most unpleasant activities. Have you been forced to do what you’ve been putting off for a month? Be sure to be happy with your achievements, and even better — reward yourself with a small present (a walk, going to the cinema, bath with foam, etc.).

Eleven steps to developing your willpower

The development of willpower is a systematic work on oneself and a struggle against one’s fears and complexes. Often the process is delayed because it is impossible to improve one’s life overnight, to quickly solve personal problems and change behavior habits.

If you don’t know how to achieve your goals effectively you can start with the simplest techniques recommended by psychologists.

  1. Don’t push the things to one side

If there is no objective reason not to do what you have planned for today, do it. Don’t let procrastination win you over. Learn to step over your own thoughts of “I don’t want” and “not now.” That’s how you develop a strong-willed resolve.

When the tasks are completed on time, life becomes much more comfortable — there is no heavy burden of responsibility and self-flagellation.

  1. Watch yourself

Try observing yourself for a week. What you spend time on, whether you have time to perform vital tasks, what external factors and bad habits distract you from your quest. It is better to write down all the data in a notebook along the way.

Self-knowledge will help you make a competent daily routine in the future and identify those “problem areas” in your schedule that prevent you from regaining focus. This makes it easier to define what time of day is best for you to perform certain tasks and when you need to rest.

  1. Clear daily routine

Discipline is the best friend of willpower. You can start small — plan a clear daily routine, which will help you to organize your life and will not allow you to move away from your goals.

With a daily routine, it is much easier to develop endurance and self-control. You will start training your willpower in the morning. Is it such an incredible effort for you to get up a little earlier and actively begin to solve the planned tasks? The main thing is to strictly follow your plan and let the day be as productive as possible.

The regime of the day with optimal physical and emotional loads not only trains the will but is also useful for maintaining good health.

  1. Form good habits

You have probably noticed how quickly bad habits penetrate your life, enslave your will and fail to recede. But the same thing happens with useful habits. Develop them and show the resilience of your character.

Could you decide to go for a run in the morning? Include sports activities in your daily routine. You will not notice how jogging will gradually become the most useful habit and soon you will no longer have to force yourself to get out of bed and put on sneakers. This simple technique helps you gain really valuable skills.

  1. Give yourself promises and keep them

Does the phrase  “have to” cause stupor and complete reluctance to take up the case? Then it is worth replacing it with “I give my word.” Try to promise yourself that you will do a specific task. Since a promise is a matter of honor, you will have to get down to business. This method will help you maintain self-discipline and improve self-control.

  1. Control stress

Stress is useful in many ways. For some people a stressful situation provides the best condition to regain focus and finally perform the necessary task. But if you only achieve your goals in “stress mode,” physical and emotional overexertion is just around the corner.

Learn to deal with stress and properly relax. This will improve your health and help to develop your willpower.

It is better to replace that rest on the couch in front of the TV with more productive activities. Walk more, communicate with friends, read, and find a fulfilling hobby.

  1. Take the simple +1 rule

Psychologists advise using the simple +1 technique in the development of will and discipline. Its essence is this: when performing the task, try to work a little more before you relax. Gradually, you can increase your workload, which will help to make the day more productive and you to feel self-confident.

The +1 rule works in all areas of life, especially when involved in sports or when trying to lose weight. Have you pressed off the floor 20 times? Try to train your will and push up a couple more times, even if it is difficult. Now you can be considered to have successfully overcome your fatigue and strengthened your willpower. Continuing in the same vein, you will work more productively.

  1. Replace global goals with more tangible tasks

Development of the willpower has no fast trump cards and  significant results of its development can only be seen after a while. For example, after giving up unhealthy food, you will notice that you have lost weight only after a couple of weeks. Not seeing an immediate positive result, many people give up without even going halfway.

It’s better not to set global goals that need a long time to realize. Divide them into more tangible subtasks. Have you decided to lose weight? First, plan to lose one kilogram, then another and so on. Having achieved a certain success because the goal is quite realistic, you will feel confident and strengthen your willpower.

  1. Don’t forget the motives

Faced with obstacles on the way to achieving your goal, which discourage the desire to move on, do not forget about the motives. Define what is the driving force for you to succeed.

When willpower is running low, think about what exactly you will gain by succeeding in your quest. Perhaps it is happiness, freedom, financial wealth or success. Maybe your actions will make another person’s life better?

  1. Avoid temptation

Temptation sometimes reduces efforts to nothing. Be stronger and try to protect yourself from the negative impact of external conditions in advance. The absence of temptations will make your will stronger. Over time, it will be much easier for you to achieve the goal without reacting to “stimuli.”

If you can’t work productively because you’re constantly distracted by social media, remove the “unnecessary” temptations by installing special programs on your computer that disable access to certain sites. Are you on a diet? Then choose a route from work to home so that you don’t even get close to the pastry shop!

  1. Meditate

According to American psychologist Kelly McGonigal, meditation is one of the best ways to develop willpower. She explains it this way. The very concept of “willpower” is related to a person’s ability to focus on a particular task, which he or she is currently performing. Many people have certain problems with being attentive and assiduous. Many “irritating” factors constantly interfere such as the phone and the Internet with its inexhaustible flow of information. [5]

Meditation just trains your ability to abstract from all the “unnecessary things” and focus on the process at hand. It doesn’t matter what goals you have, meditation teaches you to control your feelings and not to toe the line of negative emotions, fears and self-doubt.

Procrastination, reluctance, and inability to cope with the tasks, laziness and a mild nature — all these contribute to a learned behavior pattern. If you aim to control the impulses of the body and your own emotions, you must develop and strengthen your willpower. It is important not to miss the moment when there is still an opportunity to change your life for the better, without being at the mercy of numerous bad habits and pathological behavior.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique has shown effectiveness in the development of willpower. The certified method is based on the theory of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A.Ukhtomsky, etc.

The course will help you to change the pathological pattern of behavior that prevents you from controlling your own life and confidently achieving your goals. The training will help you to replace negative attitudes with the positive. This will help to control all life processes, help you to stop being at the mercy of fears and complexes and will give the strength to solve short-term and long-term problems.

The program is designed for 2-6 weeks. Participation in the training is strictly confidential. Neither colleagues nor friends need to know that you are solving personal problems by resorting to a psychologist. Activity with the psychologist takes place in a convenient remote mode — by phone, e-mail, and in online chatrooms. A personal psychologist helps you to work on yourself and answers all the questions that arise during the course.

The development of willpower is an opportunity to change your attitude to many life processes and towards the people around you, to build a successful career, and to easily achieve your goals.

Help you develop willpower

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