Have you ever tried to notice and track acts of will that you perform throughout your day?
That time when you decide to reject the offer of cigarette that comes from your friend. Maybe that morning you finally took yourself for a work-out routine.
Where do such acts come from?
Why in some cases are you resistant to any kind of temptations and just do what is right/logical/useful while in other cases you just can’t stand up to the seduction?
Is there a limited resource of willpower for each of us?
And, if it’s true, can we somehow increase it or should we just stick with it like that chewing gum that has stuck to our shoe sole on the way to work. We can take time and fix that, but we have work to do and we are in a hurry.
Flexing The Muscle
“Willpower is like a muscle: It needs to be challenged to build itself.” – Martin Ginis
If neuroscience has taught us something about our brain lately – it’s that it is no different than any other muscle in our body (except it’s unimaginably complex!).
If you have ever been to gym – you know how it works. Weak muscles won’t let you lift decent weights, the same thing basically happens to your brain when it is required to show some willpower.
There is a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, it is located just behind your forehead and it’s believed to be responsible for behavior regulation and decision-making.
In easy words, that part of your brain is literally the willpower mission control center, and when you can’t handle the desire to eat one more sausage you know what is it to blame.
But how that does that help?
Well, knowing how an engine works gives you an opportunity to tweak and upgrade it.
According to Kelly McGonigal, Stanford University PhD, and author of The Willpower Instinct, the pre-frontal cortex is like a child that needs to be looked after.
You have to be responsible and fully involved in order to raise it properly, so you won’t feel embarrassed for it. There are things you can do to improve the pre-frontal cortex. Following them will literally increase it by consolidating grey matter around it.
As a result, you will gain a power to control over your desires and to act upon the interest of usefulness and healthiness. Instead of receiving a short-term sense of satisfaction. The basic recommendation break-down is:
1. Sleep well.
It is a well-known fact. Your whole organism restores and gathers power while sleeping and willpower is no different. You are very vulnerable to bad habits and other possible threats when you didn’t get enough sleep.
2. Eat well.
Digestion of proper food will supply your brain with necessary vitamins and minerals. Food is a fuel so be sure to keep the tank properly filled.
Physical exercises are proven not only to increase your body condition, but weekly exercise activities are experimentally proven to be a boost to your willpower as well.
Just a simple 10-minute breath meditation daily routine has proven to improve your body and mind on a many different levels. From improving your focus level to helping your sleep better, meditation has become a powerful tool to anyone seeking to increase their willpower reserve.
Following basic guidelines will definitely boost your self-awareness and the willpower itself. But what do you do when you seem to be out of the resource?
In Search Of A Willpower Boost Pack
Remember what we talked about earlier? About the comparison of our brain to muscles. Now that we know, it seems clear that we can “work out” and get our brain to consolidate the willpower at the times when it is most needed.
We just need to keep practising and pushing it to the limit.
Well, the truth is, it’s not quite right. The resource of your willpower is never unlimited. Especially on your first steps of mastering your willpower, you can easily find yourself in the situation when you are just out of it.
Once you learned how exactly your mind works when you are eating that caramel cake or passing a gym class you would need to learn how to force yourself doing the right thing.
But the problem is that you might face numerous situations throughout your day that would require you to challenge your power of will in order to motivate yourself.
If you’ll be too hard on that, you might just pass one through. You would think – I woke up early, I am not smoking for three weeks now and I laid out on a training today. So this sweet dessert after supper won’t cross out all my achievements.
And you’re right. You can’t be all-focused and determined non-stop 24/7. In this case, one day you would just have to give it a rest in order to release the tension that is tangling you.
So What Do We Do?
In order to avoid that, you need to carefully examine the level of your willpower. Evaluate how much is left in your willpower bank. That would enable you to plan your decisions and actions ahead of the challenges you face.
Becoming aware of the level of willpower you have gives you a chance to avoid seductions and temptations you might face later. For example, if you know that just can’t fight that social media feed checking habit, maybe you could try leaving the phone somewhere not near your workplace.
The other recommendation I would give is an obvious one, though it is also one of the hardest.
Once you have started working on improving your power of will, never let it go. Keep the focus and determination to fight your nasty habits for quite some time. Until you’ve worked out the manner to deal with them.
For example, at some point of my life I had a serious sleep deprivation problem. It was doing severe damage to my personal and professional life, so I had to do something about it.
Amongst all the solutions I tried, meditation was something that really worked, though I had to wait more than a month to see that. But, at some point, my sleep problems were just gone.
Everything went back to normal. And when everything is normal there is no need to make additional efforts to keep it that way, I thought. So I stopped meditating just to see that the problem came back.
That’s when I realized that I should always be focused and determined to steer my life in the right direction.
Drawing The Bottom Line
There is always a way to go when it comes to self-improvement, for all of us. Willpower is the most effective tool on the forefront of our personal growth and development.
While there are literal ways of improving your willpower, you should never forget that there is a resource that you are spending, especially on your first steps of mastering the power of will.
Are you struggling to find willpower? Leave a comment below.