The Best 5 Techniques to Strengthen Your Willpower
Do you believe you could be a hugely better man if you just had more willpower?
You’d get in shape. You’d be more productive at work. You’d waste less time watching TV.
…But you simply weren’t born with enough willpower. That’s why you stay the same.
If you do feel that way, you’re not alone. Most people claim a lack of willpower is the biggest barrier between them and their goals… and about a third of people believe willpower can’t be strengthened (they believe that if you weren’t born gifted with willpower, you’re stuck without it). 1 2
But here’s the thing:
Willpower isn’t a gift that’s granted to some men and not others… instead, just like a muscle in the body, willpower can be trained, flexed, and developed into a powerful force that can help you reach your goals. source
I want to show you the amazing, research-backed ways willpower is like a muscle, and 5 highly effective techniques to strengthen your willpower.
This introduction to the ‘willpower muscle’ can drastically help you strengthen your own willpower… and then be powerfully better equipped to reach your goals.
This is a man’s complete primer to the willpower muscle.
I highly suggest you read the entire guide, but if you want to skip to any specific part, use the Table of Contents below:
You’ve probably heard the word willpower many times… but you may not have heard an actual explanation of it.
It’s a simple explanation if you break the word into parts:
Your will is simply a goal (lose weight, earn a promotion, stop drinking, meet the right woman)…
…and your power is the force you put into accomplishing goals (a powerful bodybuilder uses force to lift, a powerful communicator uses force to influence, etc.)
So willpower is the force you use to complete goals you’ve set. Make sense?
Why You Need a Strong Willpower
Strengthening your willpower can make your life hugely better in two ways:
- It can help you focus intensely on your goals
- It can help you live a happier, more productive life
You can focus intensely on your goals if you build up a strong willpower. Makes sense, right? If every bit of your mental willpower is focused on achieving that one goal, your focus on it will dramatically increase.
…And that increased focus means you’re less prone to distractions that slow you down.
But… how does willpower help you live a happier, more productive life?
There’s actually scientific research to prove that it can:
- The strength of willpower can predict academic success… even more effectively than IQ.
Students with strong willpower had better attendance, grades, and acceptance into advanced programs. Strong willpower was more correlated to the students’ success than their IQ was. source
- Willpower is a strong indicator of future wealth, low crime involvement, and happiness.
An amazing lifetime study found that children who displayed strong willpower were more likely to have had those positive life experiences as 32-year-olds.source
Here’s the takeaway:
Without willpower, difficult goals (losing weight, decluttering your house, saving money) (LINK – minimalism) would be way harder to accomplish. That’s because you’re more focused, and scientifically more apt to succeed, if you can exercise willpower.
Willpower actually has been compared to a muscle by researchers. source
It sounds a little crazy, but it’s true… below are the 3 most compelling, research-backed traits that willpower shares with muscles:
1. Willpower requires a powerful energy source
The energy we use to power our muscles through any daily activities (running, stretching, digesting food, breathing, etc.) comes from glucose in your bloodstream. Your muscles would be useless without glucose. 1 2
Now here’s the crazy part:
There’s some powerful research that shows that using willpower requires glucose… just like using a muscle:
- Using willpower depletes In one study, after subjects exercised willpower in the lab, there was less glucose measured in their blood. source
- Consuming glucose increases Another study shows that subjects who had a glucose drink before performing the willpower test were actually able to use more willpower than subjects who didn’t get a drink. source
Crazy, right? Here’s the takeaway:
Willpower, just like a muscle, relies on a steady supply of glucose to stay strong.
2. Willpower is dramatically weakened if it’s overused
When your muscles burn glucose, there’s less of that fuel stored up in your body the next time you need it.
You’ve probably had something like this happen to you:
You overuse a muscle (work out too hard, or just do more strenuous activities than usual in a day), and your muscle is weaker than normal for the next day or so.
Since willpower relies on glucose (like muscles do), it can run out of fuel if you overuse it, too.
One study found that if subjects did well on a willpower test (like restraining their laughter during a funny movie) it significantly decreased the odds that they’d be able to use willpower in the next test (like being able to restrain from overeating).source
When they overused willpower in one area, they were less able to powerfully exercise willpower in another area.
Here’s the takeaway:
After burning glucose (by using willpower in little ways) all day, the ‘willpower fuel’ in the body can get used up.
3. Willpower can be strengthened with consistent practice and training
What happens when you exercise a muscle correctly… training it without constantly wearing it out?
It grows stronger. You can eventually use that muscle to do very difficult things.
As you probably guessed, willpower can powerfully grow with training, too:
In one study, subjects started a new workout program while also taking regular willpower tests in the lab. When they used willpower to make themselves work out, they actually performed better on the smaller willpower tests over time. source
So… what does that mean?
Flexing the willpower muscle in one way (in the above case, literally working out) made it easier to use the willpower muscle in other ways (performing well on the tests).
Here’s the bottom line:
Your willpower muscle can be grown, strengthened and challenged… then used to reach your goals.
There are many ways to train your willpower, but below are the 5 most effective ways to build it up.
Now that you know how willpower is like a muscle (it needs energy, it’s weakened with overuse, and it’s strengthened with training), you can learn ways to build up your willpower… just like you’d build muscle mass in the gym.
Below are 5 of the most effective training techniques to build up your willpower muscle.
Step #1: Narrow your focus to one achievable goal
Here’s the thing:
Willpower isn’t infinite (you can run out of it, remember?), so don’t use up your store of willpower by half-finishing many small tasks. Think about it like this:
When you have several tasks to do, what’s the most effective way to get them all done:
Quickly jump from task to task (focus on everything at once)…
…or prioritize the tasks (complete them one at a time)?
Prioritizing (using concentrated willpower to complete one goal at a time) will almost always produce better results than letting your store of willpower flow to multiple goals.
Action Step: Don’t let your willpower get sapped by multiple goals in a day… write down your priority goal, and focus your willpower on just that one goal.
Step #2: Eat a powerfully healthy diet to fuel your willpower muscle
This step is not just for men who want to lose weight.
Any man can reap the benefits of a healthy diet… one of those benefits being a dramatic willpower increase.
Your brain burns glucose when you exercise willpower… so to give your brain enough willpower fuel, you’ve got to re-supply it with glucose often. source
Eat small meals every few hours, instead of waiting around for three big meals a day. That way, your glucose levels won’t be at dangerous lows during the day… which means you’ll be able to use willpower better and more often.
Step #3: Small reps of willpower exertion
Building muscle doesn’t happen all at once, right?
You have to repeat reps, over and over again, before muscle starts to build.
When you do exercise a muscle, each individual rep doesn’t feel like much… but when you do many reps over time, a strong, powerful muscle starts to form.
Each time you complete a goal (even if it’s a very small goal), it’s like doing one ‘willpower rep’ at the gym. Over time, the reps will create a stronger willpower.
Action Step: Try to complete a small task (rep) as many times as you can during the day. Here’s some great examples to get you started:
- Sit up straight when you realize you’re slouching
- Stop saying ‘um’ in conversations
- Eat a piece of fruit with breakfast
- Take a 3-minute cold shower every morning (it takes a lot of willpower to do this!)
Step #4: Decrease your stress (stress can basically ‘sprain’ your willpower muscle)
We all know:
Stress can have a very real effect on your body. Weight gain, skin breakouts, headaches, and a tight upset stomach are all physical symptoms of stress. source
Well, get this:
Overuse of willpower can have the same effect on your body… and you use willpower more than ever when you’re stressed.
Check it out:
When you’re stressed, stress hormones flood your brain, making you want to act fast, and focus on everything that’s making you stressed.
But when you’re using willpower, you need to act carefully (to reject anything that’s tempting you), and focus on just the task at hand. source
…That means that your willpower has to work even harder than usual to fight the flood of stress hormone… making you more stressed, and straining your willpower.
Stress (and overuse of willpower to fight stress) can dramatically weaken your willpower… almost like a muscle sprain. Make sure you’re doing whatever you can to decrease your daily stress.
Step #5: Allow time for your willpower muscle to recover
Just like a muscle, willpower needs recovery time after heavy use.
Heavy use seems like it would be resisting just the big, powerful impulses… but really, heavy use can also mean using your willpower in small ways all day (and you do this way more than you think).
Need proof? Think about how often you’re in one of these situations:
- You don’t snack at work when you badly want to
- You agree with your boss when you know he’s wrong
- You don’t go out with friends because you have other obligations
- You hide your reaction when something upsets you
- You don’t surf the internet at work
- You stay awake when you’re tired
Do any (or all) of those sound familiar?
You already know that willpower weakens with overuse. By giving it adequate time to recover at the end of the day, you’re better able to use it to achieve your goals.
Action Step: give your exhausted willpower enough time to recover… purposefully stay away from small temptations that will wear out your willpower:
- Get enough sleep (you can’t be tempted if you’re asleep, right?)
- Get rid of temptations that will keep you from your goal (alcohol, junk food, consumer-driven magazines… anything that directly tempts you)
- Resist hanging out with friends that you know are bad influences on you
Willpower is like a muscle that can weaken, grow, and help you with difficult tasks.
Perform our willpower training techniques, and your willpower can strengthen… allowing you to better accomplish your goals.