When was the last time you actually woke up from your first alarm? Can you remember the last time you successfully stopped yourself from eating another piece of chocolate?
Willpower has been a subject of great interest in the modern era – the era where we are free to do whatever we want. But with this freedom, comes bad choices as well. Example: Checking how many likes we got in our new post, watching one more YouTube video, or finishing the whole cake at once.
Topics we’ll be discussing:
- Why is it so hard to maintain our willpower?
- What exactly is willpower?
- How to increase your willpower?
- What does the book say about willpower?
- The bottom line
Why is it so hard to maintain our willpower?
Being the smartest living organism in the world, we should have been able to say no to bad things, shouldn’t we? We all know that watching too many YouTube videos or eating too many fast food items are bad for us.
Yet we can’t seem to stop ourselves from giving in.
It’s because these activities are made in such a way that our willpower can’t stand a chance. They are produced by businesses that want us to consume their products. Otherwise, how will YouTube be able to run if people stop watching videos there? How will McDonald’s’ run if we stop eating there?
So they have no other option than to create those products that are very addictive in nature. The ‘addictive’ feature ensures that we will keep coming back to consume more and more of it.
Another powerful reason that we can’t seem to maintain our willpower is that it’s the social norm. Being social animals, we like to do activities that others are doing. We use social media because all our friends are there. We go to McDonald’s because it’s the most popular eating place we know.
We don’t think twice whether following the herd is actually a good idea.
Since everyone is doing the same, it must be right!
“Most of life’s actions are within our reach, but decisions take willpower.”Robert McKee
What exactly is willpower?
If you have read this far, then I’m sure you too want to increase your willpower, don’t you?
The science of willpower states that willpower is a muscle. Like any other muscle, we can train our willpower to our advantage.
While physical and mental muscles are commonly discussed, you will hardly find anyone discussing the willpower muscle. It’s because unlike the physical or the mental muscle, willpower muscle isn’t visible to us.
After going to the gym for some time, you can see some profound changes. Likewise, after reading some books, you will be able to understand that particular topic much better.
But, how will you realize that your willpower has increased? Well, in most cases, you don’t.
Don’t worry though, once your willpower increases, your life will improve without you even knowing about it.
“If freedom is short of weapons, we must compensate with willpower.”Adolf Hitler
How to increase your willpower?
A lot of researches have supported that having a ‘purpose’ can help us build our willpower.
Try to deeply understand why something is good for you and some other bad. I know that watching a lot of YouTube videos is bad for me. When I start watching them, I can’t seem to control myself.
Only after a few hours, I feel the guilt of doing so. I feel I have wasted a lot of time, which could have been used for some productive tasks.
In my case, “waste of time” is the main reason to stop using YouTube regularly.
Whenever I turn to YouTube, it’s this “waste of time” that reminds me to not use it.
So try to find your own purpose of doing something or otherwise. The purpose for you to wake up early could be to exercise and take a shower. The purpose for you to study every day could be because your exams are coming up.
If you cannot seem to change yourself, can you at least change your environment?
Do you tend to use social media more when your phone is next to you? If yes, then keep your phone somewhere else. If that doesn’t help, then give it to one of your closed ones, and tell them not to give it to you until and unless you have finished your work.
Do you constantly tend to check your fridge for juice or cake? Stop buying them, and start buying fruits and vegetables! How will you eat unhealthy items if they aren’t available in the first place?
While learning about willpower, many of us tend to plan about removing all the bad habits at once. We write everything we want to change about ourselves and feel proud of doing so.
But when the time actually comes to use our willpower, we fail miserably. It’s because we are so diversified that we can’t focus on a particular activity.
Being optimistic is good, but being overly-optimistic leads to terrible consequences.
Therefore, choose one activity at one time. Just focus on it for a few days and get better at it. If you then feel comfortable, move to another activity.
“The world’s greatest achievers have been those who have always stayed focused on their goals and have been consistent in their efforts.”Dr Roopleen
What does the book say about willpower?
There is a very popular book called The Willpower Instinct, which I have read a couple of times.
This book has explained most of the things that are there about willpower. The author, a lecturer at Stanford University, herself has conducted many experiments to deepen her knowledge about willpower. She has shared her surprising findings in this book.
The book argues that the people with better willpower seem to live a happier and a wealthier life. These people are able to control their emotions, which in turn leads to better decision making. Having said that, willpower is a finite resource. Excessive use of willpower leads to mental failure.
The Willpower Instinct challenges the traditional view about willpower with a lot of modern examples and helps us live a more productive and satisfying life.
Get your book here (currently available in India only) – The Willpower Instinct
“A short practice that you do every day is better than a long practice you keep putting off to tomorrow.”Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct
The bottom line
Willpower is something that most of us tend to ignore, which later comes to haunt us.
As you are now aware of the importance of willpower, I hope you will start applying the ideas right away. You might not see the changes immediately, but your life will start to improve consistently.
If you learned something and enjoyed reading this article, then please consider sharing this with your wonderful friends as well. Thank you so much!
Check out a similar article about My Personal Experience With Social Media.