Overall, people have an unrealistically optimistic self-vision and ability.
But what’s the one thing surveys show that most people admit they have a problem? Self-controlling.
And who will most likely give in to temptation? Ironically, people think they have the most willpower.
Then, research shows that people who believe they have the most willpower are most likely to lose control when tempted. Smokers who are the most optimistic about their ability to resist temptation, for example, are the most likely to recur four months later, and overoptimistic dieters are the least likely to lose weight.
So how can we increase willpower? What must science say?
Then, I’ve posted a lot about it — from research to interviewing the top expert on the subject. Let’s make it all round and useful.
Here are seven ways to increase your own willpower and live a better life:
Everyone wants a fix. One pill fixing everything. Then, closest thing about willpower is what’s called “keystone habits.”
Then, primary is exercise. What’s so special about weights? It doesn’t just give you more gym discipline …It also improves eating. And helps less use your credit card. And make your work more productive. And patience with loved ones.
Exercise makes people create other, often unrelated, good habits:
When people start exercising regularly, even as rarely as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly … “Exercise spills over,” said James Prochaska, a Rhode Island University researcher. “Something that makes other good habits easier.”
Then, gym is too much for you? Try newspaper food. Write down all you eat every day. Another powerful keystone habit.
(For more reasons, go here.)
So if anything, keystone habits get the best bang for your buck. What else should you do daily?
Leading self-control researcher Roy Baumeister found limited willpower. It’s highest early in the day, but as we decide more, it empties like a gas tank.
Then, this leads to a simple answer: first, do important things. As the day goes on, facing big challenges will only get harder. When most self-control failures occur?
Then, the longer people were awake, the more self-control problems occur. Most things go bad at night. Diets are broken at night snack, not at breakfast or mid-morning. Impulsive crimes mostly after midnight.
Your willpower’s limited. What else can the best way to use it tell us?
Productivity guru Tim Ferriss says “willpower is overrated”. We have a limited amount, so relying on it’s a bad idea. Research shows that when something is a habit when our behaviors are automatic, we use little willpower.
Then, how are you building good habits? Here’s a fantastic view of “Habit’s” author Charles Duhigg:
Building new habits is too difficult, you say? Then try it: Manipulate your environment to make what you should do easy and hard. Hide cookies and put your running shoes beside bed.
The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Work Performance:
Reduce the activation energy you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can reduce or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the greater our ability to jump-start positive change.
Then, people who think they have a lot of willpower are exposed to more temptation — and eventually, cave. So don’t trust willpower.
(Building good habits here more.)
Now comes the part I contradict myself …
Then, I know … I just told you not to use willpower, I’m telling you to use willpower. What’s there? Baumeister compares muscle willpower. When you use it too much, it gets tired. But exercising it gets stronger over time. You won’t rely on willpower for everything. You want to rely on habits.
But you want to make sure you tap a bit of willpower every day, always pushing yourself to grow that muscle over time. How easy is your daily self-control exercise? Working on your posture can produce willpower benefits.
From Willpower: rediscovering human strength:
Unexpectedly, the best results came from the posture-working group. Then, that tired old advice—”Sit straight! “Was more useful than anyone imagined. By overriding their slouching habits, students reinforced their willpower and improved on tasks that had nothing to do with posture.
Simple’s fine, right? Want to know other simple crazy things to help? Want to improve sleep willpower?
Yes, improving willpower is as easy as eating and sleeping. Then, I asked Roy Baumeister the easiest way to quickly boost self-control, he answered, “Just eat something.” Want to wake up willingly? It’s as easy as nighttime sleep.
Then, we shouldn’t be told something so obvious, but cranky kids aren’t the only ones who resist much-needed naps. Then, adults routinely sleep shortchange, resulting in less self-control.
Don’t eat and sleep easily enough? Finally, Something’s easier here.
You’ve been so lazy putting things off you really enjoy? This can boost self-control. You don’t have to say no to any temptation to discipline. Postponing them can help. Research shows saying “Not now, but later” is far more powerful than “No, you can’t.”
… people who said to themselves, “Not now, but later” were less troubled with visions of chocolate cake than the other two groups … those in postponement actually ate significantly less than those in self-denial …
Anything but giving helps strengthen your muscle’s willpower. Delay, distraction, or even caving, can help increase discipline. (Learn how to beat procrastination.) Okay, it’s time for the bad news …
Also, you’ll give in to temptation. It’s not defeatist; it’s real. But what matters is after you do. Feeling the urge to overcome your lack of willpower? Don’t. Don’t. No Mea Culpas needed. Self-control reduces blaming. It increases self-compassion.
Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Get More …
Study after study shows that self-criticism is associated with less motivation and worse self-control. It is also one of the single largest predictors of depression, draining both “I will” and “I want” power. By contrast, self-compassion — supporting and kind to yourself, especially in the face of stress and failure — is associated with greater motivation and better self-control.
People who cut themselves slack continue to try — and succeed.
So how does this fit together? Comment below. Our upcoming workshops related to Procrastination health and Selfcare are full of the actionable outcomes.