What do you think of when I say willpower? Maybe resisting temptation, overcoming adversity, or maybe a specific person comes to mind. Whatever the case, some form of strength comes into play, the word power is right there. A lot of you may believe that you have absolutely no willpower, especially when it comes to food. When you see that plate of cookies you know you are going to cave and have one, or six. What gives a person willpower? Why does it seem like some people have greater amounts of it? How do you tap into that?
Willpower is a tricky thing. You can’t see it, only its effects. Willpower also means different things to different people so it is hard to give it an exact definition. But I do believe that we all have willpower, no matter how weak you might think yours is. I think there are a few important aspects to a strong willpower that makes it seem as if some people have great stores of it while others are just trying to muster up a few drops of it.
The first one is the desire to change. It might seem obvious, but this is so often overlooked or not given much credit. People have a strong willpower really and truly WANT to change some aspect of their life. Let’s take nutrition and eating (this is a nutrition blog after all folks). If you really want to eat better you have already taken the first step to having more willpower. But Katie, I do really want to eat better, I just can’t resist those “bad” foods. Then no, you don’t want to eat better, you want to eat the same garbage you have always eaten. Sorry to be harsh, but saying you want to change but then turning around and downing a pint of ice cream is a bit contradictory. You almost need to be at a place where you are disgusted with the way you are eating and the only place you can go is in the total opposite direction. There is a point where you will WANT change and act on that want, there is the first little hint of your willpower.
The second part of willpower is motivation. Wanting to change your eating habits is great but you are going to have to have motivation to keep that change going and to strengthen your willpower even more. Motivation is another tricky idea; here is the technical definition of it. I’m going to simplify it because I think that it doesn’t need to be super technical. Motivation is personal to you and is what gets you revved up and going. What motivates me probably will not motivate you in the least. That’s fine, what isn’t fine is when people use what they are fighting against as motivation. Let’s use eating again. If you are trying to eat better and maybe lose weight and decide to motivate yourself by promising yourself a piece of chocolate cake if you lose five pounds, how is that helpful? That’s the equivalent to trying to quit smoking and rewarding a smoke free week with a cigarette. Find other means of motivation for what it is you are trying to change. By using food to reward yourself, you’re just slowly weakening your willpower as well as your motivation to keep going.
One other thing that is important to willpower is the perception of gaining something from your use of willpower. In this article, the author talks about how when people see results from the use of their willpower, it actually gets stronger. That makes a lot of sense; if you see the fruits of your labor, aka willpower, you are going to continue to use it. And as a result of continuing to use your resolve, you’re strengthening it. And that right there will motivate you to keep up your change (see how it’s all tying together!?).
I can’t tell you how to get willpower. It’s not as simple as that. I can tell you that you already have the willpower you need to change right inside yourself. You just need to find it. You have to truly want that change, and you will need to find the proper motivation to keep going. Take a look at your life and see where your weakest area is. Ask yourself if you are ready to take on the job of turning that behavior around. If you are then you have the tools within to make that change. I believe in you, do you?