How To Develop Willpower And Good Habits (Guide)

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”– Mahatma Gandhi
When it comes to willpower many worry that they are too late, too weak minded, or simply lack the structure to develop willpower. We’re all born with willpower, but some people use their willpower more effectively than others. With more self-control we would all stop procrastinating, and achieve all sorts of noble goals. 

If you want to really have some control and direct your actions towards goals, then you simply must build willpower. There’s nothing you can’t accomplish if you get the habits right. But what if you want to make a change to this daily behavior? Is it possible to reshape your habits so that you can make it to the gym as effortlessly? Remember, a goal oriented approach helps with willpower.

In order to build willpower, start with a habit you want to create. Write it down as a goal and ensure that all of your decisions lead you to fulfill this specific goal. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight you need to consciously identify the source of the issue. In most cases it is due to a lack of exercise and poor dieting habits. 

After identifying the root cause of the issue, you can begin to develop routines and procedures to replace those previous habits with new ones. Overtime your conscious decisions towards your goals will become automatic and you will have developed a new and effective habit!

Keep a positive approach because even with a high level of willpower, setbacks are inevitable. So long as you are able to recover from those slip ups and engage back into your routines and procedures. That is okay. Keep yourself focused on the end goal and think of your setbacks as little hurdles along the way. A positive approach keeps you encouraged on this habit journey.

Cut out all of the negative influences around you. You need to realize that you are doing this for yourself and nobody else in this world.
Willpower requires consistency, determination and focus. Start working on your willpower and you will soon see a stronger, more determined and better version of yourself. 

A useful and accurate analogy is that will-power is like a muscle: if you over-use it, it will become fatigued and eventually fail, but if you exercise it regularly without over-extending it, it becomes stronger.
The achievement of our goals and success are more the product of our daily habits than any one off transformative situation or action on our part.

Habits are an intrinsic part of who we are and how we function. They are fundamental to how we think and behave, which makes them key to how we live our lives and make our decisions.

Habits Are A Key Part Of Mind Management Because;

Your mind use habits like a shortcut or brain power saving device or mechanism. If you manage your mind in a helpful way you can utilize the power of habits.

To do this you need to know which habits are good for you to continue and critically which habits are not supporting your goals. The first step therefore is to identify a habit you want to change for a helpful, empowering, positive, healthy or wealthy habit, or a new habit you want to cultivate.

So How Are Habits Formed?

Since habits require no thought, they are formed in the primitive brain. So you are essentially delegating the job of achieving your long-term goals through behavior change to your short-term minded brain, rather than the one responsible for the long-term. The habit loop therefore, starts with an external cue: a time of day, an environment that you enter, seeing or smelling something, etc.

You can see how we can easily translate this process to accomplish anything we want. Just follow this process:
  1. Cue: Get home from work, see your running shoes.
  2. Routine: Put them on, head outside and run.
  3. Reward: Endorphin rush from running, sense of accomplishment in getting it done, or even treating yourself to a smoothie when you get home.
Habits are formed through consistent behavioral patterns. Willpower is no different. Once you make the conscious effort to exude willpower on a regular basis, your brain will register these kind of actions and make a habit out of them.


Change Behavior With More Willpower

The evolved brain is our ultimate decision-maker. It has the capacity to choose the thing we really want to do even when that choice is hard. In the classic “angel & devil on our shoulders” situation, the evolved brain is the angel. And that angel is fueled by our willpower.

Self-control is the ability to act the way you want to act when you find yourself in challenging situations. Take for instance a policeman who is being shouted at by a provocative demonstrator or attacked by an angry drunk. The normal human response to either verbal or physical behavior would be to become angry and strike back. 

When policemen have been trained in staying calm, they have the "self-control" to do their job professionally with virtually no return of anger. The same applies to couples who have learned skills to prevent arguing. That's why children, who behave with admirable self-control, are kids whose parents have taught them good habits.

Here's how you can, too:

Eliminate as many choices as possible. We all have a finite store of mental energy for exercising self-control. The more choices you make during the day, the harder each one affects your brain--and the more you start to look for shortcuts. Then you make decisions you know you shouldn't make, but it's as if you can't help yourself.

We naturally run out of mental energy when we have too many choices to make. That's why the fewer choices we have to make, the smarter choices we can make when we do need to make a decision.
Say you want to drink more water and less soda -- Keep three water bottles on your desk at all times. Then you won't need to go to the refrigerator and need to make a choice.

Or say you struggle to keep from constantly checking your email --Turn off all your alerts. Or shut down your email and open it only once an hour. Or take your mail program off your desktop and keep it on a laptop across the room. Make it hard to check--then you're more likely not to.

Or say you want to make smarter financial choices -- Keep your credit card in a drawer; then you can't make an impulse buy. Or require two sign-offs for all purchases over a certain amount; then you will have to run those decisions by someone else (which probably means you'll think twice and won't even bother).

Choices are the enemy of willpower. So are ease and convenience. Think of decisions that require willpower, and then take willpower totally out of the equation. Make choices tonight that set up tomorrow. It's also easier to make smart choices when a decision isn't right in front of you. 

So pick easy decisions that will drain your store of willpower tomorrow, and make them tonight. Choose what you'll wear or decide what you'll have for breakfast the next day the night before.
Take as many decisions off the board tonight as you can; that will allow you to conserve your mental energy for the decisions that really matter tomorrow. 

And while you're at it, decide what you will do first when you get to work. Then commit to it. You have the greatest amount of mental energy early in the morning. Do the hardest thing you need to do first. Science says so: In a landmark study performed by the National Academy of Sciences, parole board judges were most likely to give a favorable ruling early in the morning; just before lunch, the odds of a favorable ruling dropped to almost zero.

Should judges' decisions have been affected by factors other than legal? Of course not--but they were. They got mentally tired. They experienced decision fatigue. The best time to make tough decisions is early in the day. The best time to do the most important things you need to do is early in the day. Decide what those things are, and plan to tackle them first thing.

What about the rest of the day?

Although the judges studied started strong, a graph of their decision making looks like a roller coaster: up and down and up and down. Why? They took breaks--and they ate. Just after lunch, their likelihood of making favorable rulings spiked upward. The same was true after midmorning and midafternoon breaks therefore refuel frequently.

It turns out glucose is a vital part of willpower. Though your brain does not stop working when glucose is low, it does stop doing some things and start doing others: It responds more strongly to immediate rewards and pays less attention to long-term outcomes. When you eat healthful meals and snacks, not only will you feel better, you'll make better decisions--and you will be able to exercise more willpower in making those decisions.

When it comes to long-term outcomes, you can create reminders of long-term goals. You want to build a bigger company, but when you're mentally tired, it's easy to rationalize doing less than your best. So create tangible reminders that pull you back from the impulse brink. 

Think of moments when you are most likely to give in to impulses that take you farther away from your long-term goals. Then use tangible reminders of those long-term goals to interrupt the impulse and keep you on track. Or better yet, rework your environment so you eliminate your ability to be impulsive--then you don't have to exercise more willpower.


What Weakens Willpower?

By now you’ll have a pretty good idea that one of the biggest obstacles to self-control is stress. Another significant hindrance is self-criticism. Two psychologists, Claire Adams and Mark Leary invited a group of weight-watching women into the lab and encouraged them to eat doughnuts and candy for the sake of science. Their plan: make half of these dieters feel better about giving in to the doughnuts.

Their hypothesis was that if guilt is a self-control deal breaker, maybe the opposite of guilt would support willpower.

The women were told they would be taking part in 2 different studies: one was on the effect food has on mood and the other was a taste test. For the first part all the women were encouraged to eat a doughnut and drink a full glass of water (meant to assure the women felt full and slightly uncomfortable).

For the second part of the study, before the taste test, a researcher came in and encouraged half of the women to be kinder to themselves and to remember that everyone gives in to temptation every now and then. The other half of the women received no message at all. These women were then asked to sample an array of different candies aimed to appeal at any sweet tooth. 

All the women were told to eat as much or as little as they wanted.
The women with the self-forgiveness message ate 28 grams of candy. The women who had no message ate about 70 grams of candy. Contrary to common sense, guilt and shame often don’t lead to change but to overindulging. Feeling bad makes it harder to resist temptation.

Study after study shows that self-criticism is correlated with less motivation and worse self-control. In contrast, self-compassion – being supportive and kind to yourself as you would to a friend, especially when confronted with failure – is associated with greater motivation and self-control.

When your brain is in a reward seeking mode it releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine.When your system is flooded with dopamine, the appeal of immediate gratification is amplified, leaving you less concerned about your long-term consequences and more prone to temptations of any kind.

That’s why grocery stores will put their most tempting articles front and center. Food and drink samples for example, will leave people hungrier and thirstier, therefore in a reward seeking mode, leaving them more likely to stock up on candy and chocolates. Paying attention to how marketers use the promise of reward will give you a chance to reflect before you act.

Avoiding temptation when you can, and planning ahead have also shown effective tactics for maintaining self-control in the face of temptation.Training yourself to notice when you’re making a decision rather than acting on autopilot can be a very effective strategy, while including exercise, healthy eating, better business decides into your life.

Anywhere you look at it, people with greater willpower are:
  • Happier
  • Healthier
  • More satisfied in their relationships
  • Making more money and further ahead in their careers and business
  • Better able to manage stress, deal with conflict and overcome adversity.

Point being, we all have it, we all use it to some extent, and most of us would be better off if we improved our willpower. When you have a big vision that excites you, a strange thing happens. You become more committed to your goal, you’ll work harder towards achieving it and you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.

By creating a clear mental image of what you want, your mind will also help you find a way to make it a reality.

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