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Many people believe they could improve their lives if only they had more of that fleeting quality known as willpower. With more self-control, we would all eat right, exercise regularly, avoid drugs and alcohol, save for retirement, stop procrastinating and achieve all sorts of noble goals.
It impacts every area of our lives.
We still do not have widespread awareness as to how to nurture it
Spiritual leader and activist Mahatma Gandhi described willpower by noting that:
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
People use different definitions to describe willpower, but some of the most common synonyms are: drive, determination, self-discipline, self-control, self-regulation, effortful control.
To make yourself go for a run when you don’t want to, you’ll need “self-discipline.”
If you need to overcome procrastination and start a project, you’ll need “work ethic.”
To keep going when you’re exhausted, you’ll need “determination.”
If you’d rather watch a movie than do your chores, you’ll need to exercise “delayed gratification.”
To resist the temptation of eating dessert at a dinner party, you’ll need “self-control.”
If you need to bite your tongue to avoid impulsively saying something rude, you’ll need “self-restraint.”
I know these alternate names for willpower are not exactly the same thing, but, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to lump all these things together under the single moniker “willpower.” And I do believe that there is a fundamental truth behind this simplification
What is willpower?
At its essence, willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals, and there are good reasons to do so.
Willpower is a mindset that exist in our mind. Given a hard task, if you have thoughts that it would not happen, then that is what you will get versus someone who thought that it will work. For example, in the Olympics games, it’s always the power of the mind over the athlete’s perception of what they can do. With the Gold Medals in their mind, they will endure the temporary hardship during their daily training in order to get where they want to be.
Willpower isn’t something you have or something you lack. It rises and falls. And while it’s impossible to maximize your willpower for every second of every day, it is possible to make a few changes to your day and your routine so that you can get the most of your decisions and make consistent progress on the things that are important to you.
More than 40 years ago, Walter Mischel, PhD, a psychologist now at Columbia University, explored self-control in children with a simple but effective test. His experiments using the “marshmallow test,” as it came to be known, laid the groundwork for the modern study of self-control.
Mischel and his colleagues presented preschoolers with a plate of treats such as marshmallows. The children were then told that the researcher had to leave the room for a few minutes, but not before giving the child a simple choice: If the child waited until the researcher returned, she or he could have two marshmallows.
However, if the child decided to eat the first one before the researcher came back, then they would not get a second marshmallow.
So the choice was simple: one treat right now or two treats later.
The researcher left the room for 15 minutes.
As you can imagine, the footage of the children waiting alone in the room was quite entertaining. Some kids jumped up and ate the first marshmallow as soon as the researcher closed the door. Others wiggled and bounced and scooted in their chairs as they tried to restrain themselves, but eventually gave in to temptation a few minutes later. And finally, a few of the children did manage to wait the entire time.
In children, as well as adults, willpower can be thought of as a basic ability to delay gratification. Preschoolers with good self-control sacrifice the immediate pleasure of a chewy marshmallow in order to indulge in two marshmallows at some later point.
Shoppers resist splurging at the mall so they can save for a comfortable retirement. And so on.
The marshmallow experiments eventually led Mischel and his colleagues to develop a framework to explain the human ability to delay gratification. He proposed what he calls a “hot-and-cool” system to explain why willpower succeeds or fails.
The cool system is cognitive in nature. It’s essentially a thinking system, incorporating knowledge about sensations, feelings, actions and goals — reminding yourself, for instance, why you shouldn’t eat the marshmallow.
While the cool system is reflective, the hot system is impulsive and emotional.
When willpower fails, exposure to a “hot” stimulus essentially overrides the cool system, leading to impulsive action.
Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear.
The Importance of Willpower
No matter what your goals are in life, willpower is of paramount importance.
Many of us do not realize the importance of willpower in life. For example, you know that you have a race coming and you will stop eating bad stuff. Controlling your diet is a real challenge as it requires determination and harnessing your mind capability to make your physical body just do what you want through your willpower. Once controlling your diet becomes a habit, you’ll no longer crave for unhealthy food.
Many of us do not realize the importance of willpower in life. For example, you know that you have a race coming and you will stop eating bad stuff. Controlling your diet is a real challenge as it requires determination and harnessing your mind capability to make your physical body just do what you want through your willpower. Once controlling your diet become a habit, you’ll no longer crave for unhealthy food.
They are better able to manage stress, deal with conflict, and overcome adversity. They even live longer. When pit against other virtues, willpower comes out on top.
For most of us, when we think of willpower, the first things to pop to mind are the challenges that require us to resist temptation. How do we refuse that chocolate cake, the department store, the internet, that cigarette, or that after-work drink?
It is hard. We have trouble saying “no” when our bodies and senses are screaming yes.
Willpower isn’t something you have or something you lack. It rises and falls. And while it’s impossible to maximize your willpower for every moment of every day, it is possible to make a few changes to your day and your routine so that you can get the most of your decisions and make consistent progress on the things that are important to you.
There is a link between motivation and willpower as you need to know why you want to resist a certain temptation or work on something challenging. For example, an alcoholic father want to stop drinking so that his son would not grow up to be like him.
The stronger your motivation for doing a certain thing will increase your willpower and stop any destructive behavior or help you overcome any demanding challenges.
Bad habits are hard to change and it can take up to three weeks of willpower to establish a new behavior with another nine weeks of repetition before it can be eliminated. That is why smokers and drinkers without a strong motivation to change and willpower finds it hard to stop their bad habits.
Goals and Vision
Look around you and observe carefully and you will notice that people who are successful set goals for themselves. Without goals, your life will be unfocused and you will reduce the change of success. With the goal as a focus point, your willpower will come into play as you make the sacrifice by adjusting your life towards your end point.
There are bound to be failure for any challenges that we take on and you are likely to be tempted to give up due to disappointment. In order to ensure that your willpower is not diminish by any failure, you need friends for support or your favorite motivation book or blog that you could read to brace yourself up again.
A steady, disciplined use of willpower might seem like a restriction of personal freedom, but it is not. If insufficient willpower leaves you a slave to bad habits and addictions then you’re not really free. If you can’t muster the willpower to overcome procrastination and earn a better life for yourself, then you’re not really free. To cultivate true freedom, you’ll need willpower.
“The man without self-reliance and an iron will is the plaything of chance, the puppet of his environment, the slave of circumstances.” –Orison Swett Marden2
Life is a journey for you to learn and exp. No one is perfect and you have to expect setback, overcome it and then continue to move forward.
Acquiring a willpower mindset is a journey and not a leap. Thoughts are not facts, by changing your thinking, if you can change negative thoughts to positive and then a whole new world of possibilities opens up to you.
“Whatever pain you’re experiencing today will hold you in good stead tomorrow. The more you suffer today, the stronger you become. This life’s not a rosy bed. Tomorrow’s success is based on today’s discomfort. Patience, a strong willpower & the right attitude will see you through.” Mufti Menk.