Our actions make progress. If we want to achieve anything, we need to take steps to get there. That requires a strong inner force to overcome inertia; to not expend effort. This strong superpower quality is what makes people get up off their butt and do something positive. This wonderful quality is known as willpower or self-control.
Essentially, it refers to a person's ability to regulate themselves for their own welfare. It is an individual's inner strength, capable of making intelligent choices and overriding an unwanted, unnecessary distraction, in favor of a better outcome. It is also a person's ability to keep going and delay gratification.
Psychologist and author of the book ‘The Willpower Instinct' says, ‘Saying no is just one aspect of willpower. The other part of willpower is saying yes to the things that will lead you closer to your goals. It is the ability to do what you need to do even if you don't feel like it, or a part of you doesn't want to follow through.'
Almost everybody has days when they struggle to get out of bed. Where you don't feel like doing anything to achieve your desires or wants, especially if it means going without, or experiencing emotional or physical discomfort. Yet these difficult tasks that you may need to do, but not want to, are often the keys that will unlock your greatest successes and achievements.
A lack of willpower is one of the biggest barriers to making progress or changes.
Thankfully, willpower isn't something only some of us are born with. We all have it. It is a complex mind-body response that can be practiced and enhanced to make it work better for ourselves.
Here are proven and effective ways to strengthen and boost your willpower.
Know Yourself Well
We now live in a world that is saturated with distractions, an over-frenzied landscape that rewards quick, impulsive behaviors. For example, early-bird shoppers get the best bargains. We only need to subscribe to an email list or install an app to be notified of what's the deal of the day from vendors we like. The result is a very distracted mind, keeping tabs of the whole world except our own thoughts and choices.
For a smart, modern-day society, many of us don't make good choices, or even try to resist temptation. We don't even know our impulse triggers. We are not very self-aware. Baba Shiv, a marketing professor, says, ‘distracted people are more likely to give in to temptation.'
If we are in need of boosting our willpower, this might be an area that we need to focus on. It may be the perfect time to increase self-awareness and understand our own emotional triggers. This will be a great start in empowering us all.
Deep Breathing and Meditation
Willpower is known to originate in a certain part of our brain known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The prefrontal cortex is responsible for guiding our thoughts and actions. This gives us the ability and strength to say no when something is amiss and help us to make better choices.
Meditation can help increase the blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, enhancing its ability to supercharge our self-control or willpower. That's why it has a powerful effect on our focus, impulse control, and stress management. Meditation has many benefits, even ones we can't see.
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Get Quality Sleep Every Night
Our willpower is a finite reserve that can run out and become depleted. From the moment we wake up until we sleep again, we are unconsciously using up our willpower resources. Certain factors trigger our brain to shift from a highly-conscious, self-regulating mode to an immediate reward-seeking, impulse-driven state; two of these are a lack of sleep and stress. Several studies have shown that sleep deprivation is linked to decreased brainpower, particularly in the PFC (prefrontal cortex), where willpower springs from.
To remedy this situation and ensure your brain is working just as it should for your maximum benefit, make sure you get good, quality sleep every night.
Think of willpower as a muscle that can be strengthened with more practice. It's the same as doing physical exercise. Your health and fitness improve the more you practice and train. Several studies have shown that regular exercise further engages the prefrontal cortex. It is a good way to develop not only this part of the brain but also the inner strength, our willpower. Commit to a regular fitness routine to naturally strengthen your willpower muscle.
Be Mindful of Behaviors
Many neuroscientists believe that everyone has two people living inside their heads. From a neurological perspective, we have the prefrontal cortex (PFC), where our willpower lives and is the part of the brain that makes good choices.
Additionally, we have the lizard brain, the primitive brain. This part of our brain is responsible for our impulse desires. This is where emotions and our autonomous behaviors live, all of which are our automatic responses.
To strengthen and practice willpower, we need to be more mindful of our automatic responses, behaviors, and decisions. Taking the time to stay mindful will help us to break any bad patterns we may exhibit, and allow us the luxury of a choice, where willpower naturally comes into play. This naturally enhances our focus and self-control.