The P-word. Procrastination. Sometimes do you feel like a weak person with no self-control? That you have no willpower to get that task done at work or getting yourself off the couch to go for a run?
I believe we all have moments like that. I even experienced this when writing this article… about willpower. Luckily I had done the research for this article. In the past, I would have been harder on my self for the lack of willpower.
In this article, you will learn things that influence your willpower and strategies for strengthening your willpower. It is a good chance that you will get a few surprises and that you will look differently at willpower after you have read this article.
Is Willpower A Limited Resource?
Willpower can be defined as resisting short-term temptations to meet long-term goals.
In this article from the American Psychological Association (“What You Need to Know about Willpower: The Psychological Science of Self-Control,” n.d.), they are referring to some interesting studies done on willpower.
One of the most famous ones was a study done by Roy Baumeister (M. Muraven, Tice, & Baumeister, 1998). He took subjects into a room that was filled with an aroma of freshly baked cookies. On the table in front of them, they had a plate of cookies and a bowl of radishes. One group was asked to sample the cookies, and the other group was asked to eat the radishes (resisting to eat the cookies). Afterward, they had to solve a difficult geometric puzzle. The group who were asked to eat the radishes, and had to resist eating the cookies, gave up after about 8 minutes. The group that was allowed to sample the cookies lasted for nearly 19 minutes, on average.
This experiment showed that resisting temptations could have a negative effect on performance. If this is the case, it could mean that when we are struggling to complete a task, it could mean that we are resisting something else, depleting our willpower.
Is It All In Our Head
There is little doubt that our mind is powerful, but can our beliefs affect our willpower? In a study done lead by Veronica Job, Ph.D. has shown evidence of this (Job, Dweck, & Walton, 2010).
They found that people who thought that willpower was a limited resource were vulnerable to willpower depletion. People who believed willpower was abundant had no sign of willpower depletion after exerting self-control.
Tapping Into Our Willpower Reserves
Some results suggest that we do not run out of willpower and that we can tap into our willpower reserves with the right type of motivation.
Mark Muraven, Ph.D., demonstrated that willpower-depleted individuals could persist on a self-control task when they were told that they would be paid or that someone would benefit for their efforts. (Mark Muraven & Slessareva, 2003)
Muraven also found that people who were motivated to exert self-control to please other (external motivation) was more likely to experience willpower depletion compared to people who were driven by internal goals and desires (internal motivation). (Mark Muraven, 2012)
Use Laziness to Win the Day
Whether or not willpower is a limited resource or not, we can do a lot to make it easier for yourself. There are things we can do to make sure we are not so dependent on our willpower all the time.
A great way to hack our willpower is to make sure that we make it easy to make supportive habits and make it hard to make unsupportive habits.
Here are some suggestions:
- Have a large batch of smoothies in your freezer. Put it in the fridge the day before to de-freeze, and it is ready to go the next day.
- Have your training gear beside your bed so that it easy to slip it on when you wake up in the morning.
- Are you a snacker? Have easy access to healthy snacks and keep the unhealthy meal at a really inconvenient place (ex. in the trash?). Out of sight, out of mind!
- Overwhelming to-do list? According to the Pareto principle (80/20 rule), only 20% of your tasks make up 80% of your results. Find one task on your to-do list that you focus on today that will have the most significant impact.
- Are your goals too overwhelming? Chunk it down to baby steps: Instead of having a “Reading 50 books a year” goal, commit to reading a page a day. Maybe that will inspire you to read 2 pages a day the next week. Celebrate the small victories and watch your confidence grow.
Another laziness hack you can use is only to develop one habit at the time. Making a list of New Year resolutions is most likely going to end up in failure. Set yourself in a position where it is easy to succeed.
Other Strategies For Strengthening Our Willpower
Make fewer decisions.
Making decisions draining your mental energy. There are things you can do to cut back on decisions:
Decide what to wear the night before
Make a meal plan for what you are going to eat this week
Make weekly and daily plans what tasks you want to get done
Create “If this then…” statements.
You will get into situations that will test your willpower. A great way to vastly improve your chances of success is to predict these situations and make a plan on how to respond to them. Let say that you are going to a party but is trying to cut back on alcohol. You can create a statement like this: “If anyone offers me a drink, then I’ll ask for sparkling water with lime.”
Never Get Hungry!
If you are procrastinating or beating yourself up because you don’t have any willpower, it is a good possibility that you are just low on fuel. Research have shown that there is a correlation between low self-control and low glucose-level. (Gailliot et al., 2007)
This can be one of the main reasons why diets with calorie counting and calorie restrictions have such a low completion rate.
This is also one of the reasons why the WildFit Challenge is so successful. One of our core principles is never to go hungry.
If you want NEVER to feel powerless to food again? Join our next WildFit Challenge by clicking here! https://getwildfit.com/wf90/
Connect with Jorgen directly at the WildFit Coaches