6 Feb, 2020

The Power of Willpower

The Power of Willpower

Willpower – the science of self-control- is often described as the ‘queen of virtues.’

Why?

Because if you have willpower, you have the ability to do the things you need to do, even when you don’t feel like it: You don’t get distracted from that important project at work by a message on the phone; you choose to step away from the biscuit tin once you’ve had, and enjoyed, one biscuit; you hop on the yoga mat even though you aren’t in the mood.

Waving the magic wand

Just suppose you could have anything you wanted. What would you wish for?

To have more energy? To make better decisions? To feel more in control of your life? To finish what you start?

Whatever it is you wish for yourself, we all have the capability to make it happen (unless you would wish to be a unicorn – as far as I know, that isn’t currently possible…). And the only difference between those who are really successful in their lives and the rest of us, is that they use that capability better than we do. They have more willpower.

Those will more willpower will invariably:

  • Be more focussed
  • Have better control of their emotions
  • Enjoy more fulfilling relationship
  • Progress in their chosen career
  • Manage stress more effectively
  • Overcome adversity more easily…

Shall I go on?

Mmmm…. Marshmallows

One of the most famous studies into the impact of willpower on life outcomes is probably the Marshmallow Test. Pre-school children were asked to wait alone with a marshmallow (or some other treat), with the instruction that, if they waited until the adult returned, they could have two marshmallows. Some waited, some didn’t.

Those children were then followed up from time to time over their lives. Those who had waited performed better in school, were less likely to divorce and more likely to have career success.

So, if it had been you in that room, what would you have done? And what does that tell you about your self-control?

Good news and bad news

The bad news about willpower is that it is both finite and infinite. Every decision you make, every challenge you hit, drains your willpower. So you get up after a poor night’s sleep, skip breakfast, hit a traffic jam so are late for work, find five urgent jobs in your inbox…. By the end of the day you’ve got no willpower left and all you are seeking is something to give you an immediate ‘hit’. That might be junk food, trashy TV, a row with your partner or any other thing which, that morning, you promised yourself you wouldn’t do again.

The good news about willpower is that it is both finite and infinite. Think of it like the battery on your phone. When your willpower dips, there are things you can do to give it a boost. By focussing on self-care, you can increase your focus and self-control – through meditation, gratitude, exercise, diet and sleep.

Over the next few blogs we’ll be exploring this in more detail but, for now, just start to observe where your willpower is going. Note when it is high or low and what has been gong on to cause that.

Or you can find out more about willpower by visiting willpower.petecohen.com to download my free e-book.

 

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