Three Ways to Flex Your Willpower Muscle

You’ve definitely heard it said before: S/he never eats dessert, s/he has such strong willpower. What exactly is this thing we call willpower? Is it potentially unlimited? Can you make your willpower stronger?

The most common definition of willpower is that it is the ability to resist short term temptation in order to reach longer term goals. So, the ability to skip dessert because you are trying to lose weight fits squarely in the willpower box. 20140408-152934.jpg

The most common understanding of willpower is that it works like a muscle. That means that you can increase your willpower by working on it. But it also means that you can deplete your willpower by using it too much. It is commonly understood that there is only one “store” of willpower so if you are using a lot of willpower to quit smoking, it will be difficult to exercise willpower to diet. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that many people who quit smoking gain weight.

Here are three ways to str then your willpower muscle:

1. Plan ahead. Since your store of willpower is limited, the less you use it when not necessary, the more willpower you will have when you need it. So, if you don’t buy the cookies, you won’t spend limited willpower sources trying to resist it.

2. Work out your willpower muscle. The funny thing about muscles is that use in the short term depletes ability but in the long term it increases it. As a weight lifter does a series of lifts, his ability to continue diminishes. Yet, the more he diminishes that ability, the stronger he will make his muscle for the future. Willpower works the same way. So, find ways to work out your willpower. Popular ways are to watch something funny and try not to laugh or watch something sad and try not to cry.

3. Feed your willpower muscle. Studies show that glucose is critical to willpower. Glucose can be found in many, if not most, foods. When you are expecting a situation that involves serious choices, make sure to eat and drink beforehand.

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