So about a year ago, I had some new year resolutions in mind. I promised myself that I would practice guitar for 1 hour, meditate for one hour and read a whole book at night. The commitment was to do this every single day. I did really well for a week or so. But then I started procrastinating on the reading part. I would pick up a book, and shortly fall asleep after reading two pages of it. It was really irritating for me, I thought it had to do with other things like depression, or motivation and willingness but after tracking down my daily routine. I noticed, every time I try to read a book at the end of the day after doing numerous activities, I’d end up extremely exhausted to read. Turns out that motivation, perseverance, and clean focus, all of these are deep-rooted into one element: willpower. Just as a car needs fuel to function properly, you have a finite amount of willpower that gets depleted as you use it. Plus, you use the same stock of willpower for all manner of tasks. This explains why I couldn’t read a book at bedtime. I’ve already depleted my willpower reserve doing other tasks earlier in the day. But today i will show you some steps for building strong willpower derived from the book ” Willpower Instinct ” by Kelly McGonigal who is a Stanford graduate and doctorate in the field f psychology. She has also given a famous Ted Talk titled ”Stress as a friend” give it a visit too – she has shared knowledge of her about stress-coping strategies and differennt aspects of stress to look at- but before visiting there make sure you read the following articles to end.
So let’s begin: 4 Steps to building strong willpower
We’re going to be looking at various ways and steps about preserving and building strong willpower, how to recharge your willpower supply effectively, and lastly how to strengthen your Reserve so it enables you to perform at your best. To learn about preserving and building willpower, we need to look at the things that cause its depletion in the first place. Kelly Mcgonigal divided the uses of willpower into several broad categories: we’ll be taking a look at 4 of them.
The first one is: 1-Emotional control, also known as emotional intelligence. Emotional control is critical to maintaining willpower. Being someone who is constantly stuck in a negative state can further deplete willpower. Negative people are always thinking too much, self sabotaging, shaming, judging, criticizing, blaming. All this toxicity can burn up your mental energy faster than you can imagine. That’s why toxic people always seem to have a tired look on their faces. Conversely, Smiling, and steadily maintaining a good mood requires little to no energy relative to thinking negatively at all.
The next category is 2-Impulse CONTROL: Impulse control is the ability to resist temptation. (junk food, cigarettes, porn, excessive use of social media and so forth) Strictly speaking, you really have no control over your impulses. They are triggered automatically. However, what you can control is your reaction to these temptations. Now you’re probably thinking; “if I’m able to control only my reaction over these temptations, this means I need to suppress my thoughts for them right?” “Must not think about junk food, don’t think about junk food” -Wrong-, suppressing your desire will only make it worse with willpower depletion. Here’s a better alternative, instead of suppressing those thoughts. Decide in advance on what thoughts you’re going to think and how you will behave the moment you make contact with these temptations. Make a mental plan on what thoughts exactly you’re going to think and do when tempted. “if I see junk food, I will do ten push up. if I get depressed I will go and do a nice chat with a friend or go see him only.” Planning in advance, will automate your decisiveness in these moments when you’re persuaded by uncontrollable impulses. You don’t have to worry about deciding whether to be self-indulgent or not because you’ve already made a plan of action in advance. Now let’s take a further look at impulse control strategies. In the willpower instinct by Kelly McGonigal, Kelly denoted that Meditation is one of the most effective tools for dealing with compulsive behavior. if you’re struggling with an urge to check your email every two minutes. then your thoughts have probably taken control over your behavior resulting in a bad habit. and a habit means “unconscious automatic behavior”. your conscious mind has little to no control over your habits. because they are registered in your subconscious mind, furthermore the subconscious occupies approximately 90% of the brain. logically, if you want to break a habit, you need to strengthen your conscious mind to a point that it’s able to Detect when exactly do you fall unconscious and trigger a bad habit. Strengthening your conscious mind simply means, cultivating more “awareness” Hopefully, Meditation is known to be the practice of awareness. By meditating, you are literally building more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain(conscious mind) Resulting in a further heightened awareness. Well, what can you do with more awareness? With increased awareness, you can access the ability to swiftly regulate your thoughts and emotions. if you are an angry person, for instance, meditation will teach you precisely how to notice negative feelings rising slowly. Therefore you will have the ability to calm them down instead of blasting them out on others impulsively. Simply 20 minutes of meditation a day will flush all the cortisol and other stress hormones from the body leaving you completely purified for a whole day. And not only that, many studies have proved that people who meditate regularly, massively enhanced their attention, memory, and their ability to ignore distractions. If you’re willing to practice meditation, I would highly recommend starting out with 10 minutes a day because if you start with 20 minutes a day, it’s so easy for you to lose motivation afterward.
Now back to the strategies again, so far we saw two categories of willpower depletion. Emotional control, and impulse control. Also, we described meditation as an effective tool for dealing with all kinds of temptations and negative emotions. Now the third category of willpower use is 3-Performance control: Performance control is about monitoring where you invest your focus, time, and effort.example: If you’re planning on going to the gym after deciding a financial plan for your brother’s wedding, or after watching T.V, playing video games, and surfing the internet, chances are, you won’t feel motivated about going to the gym afterward because your focus has already been invested in so many other activities causing willpower depletion and as a result, there’s no fuel left for you to workout. So easy way to avoid that is to start questioning: what are the activities that take up most of your attention? are you spending much of it aimlessly, are you overthinking about going to the gym, are you too self-conscious about your body or are you surfing the internet? the idea behind performance control is to do the most important tasks first thing in the morning if possible. Invest the totality of your attention in your creative work first and Then let your focus deviate to meaningless activities. Monitoring where you invest most of your attention on a daily basis is crucial to maintaining willpower.
The last category is Decision Making Fatigue: Now this question is for you, do you remember the last time you were pondering about a problem for hours to a point that you fell asleep? that phenomena is called decision making fatigue. you spent too much time trying to resolve an issue mentally, causing all of your willpower fuel to burn away. Here’s another great example, when you’re taking too much time to decide whether to go to the gym or procrastinate for the evening thinking you will go tomorrow night, your willpower is more likely to get depleted before you could even come to a conclusion. “should i do it ? should i not do it” basically anything that makes you think too much will deplete willpower. Instead try to be more decisive with making choices and shorten the time you take to solve problems mentally. Otherwise decision making fatigue will kick in and it will further deplete your willpower. Now we’re going be looking at various ways on how to recharge willpower effectively. Afterwards, I’ll be adding some of my personal thoughts on about strengthening and building willpower. -the most important factor to recharge willpower is a good night sleep. Are you sleeping less than 6 hours a night? if the answer yes then congratulations! You’re more likely to have no willpower, no motivation and no self control whatsoever throughout the day. the first step to replenish willpower is very simple: improve the quality of your sleep. I’ve found that sleeping in a completely darkroom, with no distractions can help the sleep hormones to sedate your body properly. Meaning that muscles that have been stressed out during the day, will have the opportunity to relax. To make sure this happens, sleep in a darkroom, with less distractions. also make sure to sleep and wake up at a very specific time. Again, it’s all about building habits, this helps the brain to condition the body so it knows when and when not to release sleep hormones. This can save more willpower for later decisions. But let’s suppose you couldn’t get a goodnight sleep – your baby daughter woke up crying in the middle of the night or something-. In this case, your last resort is a powernap in the evening. napping for 20 minutes can replenish your willpower supply, compensating your lack of sleep. This is basically how to recharge willpower effectively. The last thing we’ll look at, is how to increase the willpower reserve. Building and strengthening your willpower reserve simply means acquiring a greater willpower capacity that will enable you to perform better and greater than your normal potential would normally allow you to. In addition to meditation, from my personal experience, i have found that willfully and continuously throwing yourself into new challenges, new experiences is the biggest factor for strengthening and building willpower capacity. In fact it’s the biggest factor for building any aspect of your life. Challenging yourself regularly is crucial to boosting willpower capacity. let me repeat that to you, CHALLENGE YOURSELF ON A REGULAR BASIS, because when you stop after reaching a certain goal, guess what, you’re back to ground zero. I am not saying kill yourself basically, of course take a break. but keep in mind that people who are confronted with daily challenges seem to feel more energized compared with others who deliberately remain in their comfort zone. The best way to challenge yourself is to try and get into a flow state. A flow state is a deep state that challenges one’s potential to go beyond its limits. For artists, authors and song-composers any thing that puts them in a deep creative state is essentially, a flow state activity. Exercising, writing, playing music; but you can’t be rehearsing the same old songs for instance and hope to get into a flow state. the task needs to be challenging in order for you to access Flow.
So let’s rehearse them again
- 1. Don’t slip into acts of overthinking, judging, self-sabotaging. Being stuck in a negative emotion state can waste too much willpower that can be put in better use. Become emotionally aware and be ready for negative feelings and emotions to com, don’t avoid them, counter them with other activities of pleasure and entertainment.
2. Control the impulses that is triggered in the mind and prepare an action plan for them. Remove as many distraction from your mind as possible.
3. Performance control: Make your decision during high willpower moment.
4. Decision Making Fatigue: Make your decision on the bases of things you value, focus on your priorities and what you want, this way you will make decision faster and save your mind from energy depletion.
- Extra tip:
CHALLENGE YOURSELF ON A REGULAR BASIS It is the best way of building strong willpower
To read more about other steps to build willpower, Click Here
Read also about 8 ways to persuade someone into anything by Clicking Here.
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