Willpower. That heavily used word. Its needed for almost everything from passing exams, losing weight to starting a business. Some others seem to have more of it than we do. When we need it most, it seems to evaporate! The mere sight of a piece of cake can send weeks of will power into a downward spiral.

So what happens to willpower. Why is it difficult to summon at will? Is it infinite? Many of us believe that with more self-control we would all eat well, exercise regularly, save for our future, stop procrastinating and achieve ALL of our goals.

One definition of willpower is ‘The ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals’, while self-control is the ability to control our feelings, emotions and reactions, so it goes hand in hand with self control and is often interchanged as I will be doing here. Some research has also shown that will power is finite and that we get a certain amount each day to help us to control our vices and each time we resist a temptation we are using up a bit of our daily allowance of willpower. And we all know the possible consequences of not being able to exercise self control. It cost Serena the US Open in 2009.

Consequences bill boardIt does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop ~ Confucius”

A 2010 study at Stanford University, debunked that theory and found that a belief in your own willpower is key. If you believe it’s limited it is but if you believe it’s abundant, so shall it be.

So assuming you can improve your willpower, I will share some tips that I have found to help me and should help you to increase your willpower reserves and ensure that you have more ammunition against fighting temptations.

First is stress, you must manage it – the same energy source is used for stress and willpower – Too much stress and will power will disappear. We all know that when we have had a stressful day – Things like fattening food, TV and other vices become more tempting.

Secondly, you must have a plan and stick to it. Have a few clear goals and stick to them. Having a single day ‘to do list that’ can take up to a week to complete is demotivating and foils your attempts at self control. Keep your lists simple and doable using the SMART system of setting goals. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) Remember, if you commit to nothing you will be distracted by anything! Failing to Plan really is Planning to fail.

Finally a very important factor is getting more sleep. Sleep researcher Daniel Kripke found that people who sleep between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night live a happier and more productive life. Lack of sleep weakens self control and will power, it has been proven that students who sleep less are more likely to fall for opportunities to cheat at exams and workers are more likely to blame their colleagues for their mistakes as well as take credit for work that they have not done. It seems that the only way to boost willpower is to be aware of its weakness and scarcity and try to manage it. Willpower also works like a muscle – it gets better with use.

Congratulations you have demonstrated that you have willpower, by reading this entire blog 🙂