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Trying something new requires a lot of willpower and mental fortitude. Have you perhaps felt that lately you’re not up to the task?
While you want to persevere, you just keep falling short, or you start but then quit just as quickly. Fortunately, there are ways how to increase willpower and become mentally tough in the face of daily living, and you’ll learn all about those here.
What Is Willpower?
Willpower is the ability to do things, even when they are tough. You can do this because you have the ability to resist something that is a big temptation. Essentially, willpower is not about some external force. It’s about you and how much you can control yourself.
You can either push yourself more to achieve something like running a race, or you can hold yourself back to prove your self-control, like going on a fast.
Where Does Willpower and Mental Toughness Come From?
Okay, so willpower is about your personal will. Is this something you’re born with? Are some people just genetically superior and have an extra chromosome on their genome that enables massive willpower?
Willpower is something you cultivate. It’s not a birthright. Willpower is a mindset you develop through trial and error, through determination and by not giving up.
Just think of someone you know who has shown intense willpower. It may be someone who has been through serious life challenges or someone who has achieved something amazing.
Was this person blessed with an ability the rest of us only dream of? They will probably laugh if you tell them that.
The Difference between Willpower and Self-Control
To develop self-control, you need willpower. Essentially, willpower is a sustained burst of energy to help you resist something or push past your own inclinations to stop.
Self-control is a methodical character trait that does the daily work like getting up, making breakfast, dressing correctly, and carrying yourself well in your social and career environments.
I like to think of it as follows: Willpower is the sports coach that tells you to push harder, not give up, and never quit, while self-control is the athlete that trains daily, takes each step, and runs the race.
Without the coach, the athlete would quit. Without willpower, you won’t develop self-control. With willpower and self-control, you develop powerful self-confidence too.
How do you create mental toughness and develop an ironclad willpower?
9 Ways to Increase Your Willpower and Develop Mental Toughness
There are several techniques and methods to build up your willpower and become mentally tough. It’s a bit like going to the gym. You build a mental muscle that needs to be strong and ready to work when you need it. You can learn how to increase willpower.
With willpower comes the responsibility not to strain your will, which can lead to the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back when something small breaks you will.
Like that last red light on your way home that makes you so angry that you buy a pie instead of cooking dinner.
I also find that cultivating willpower and mental toughness is like building a deep well inside your mind. You fill this well with each task you complete and each effort you expend.
Eventually, your well is at the point of overflowing, and you will never suffer the doubt drought again. Weakness isn’t in your vocabulary.
1. Use It a Little at a Time
When it comes to willpower, you need to work on it a little at a time. Like someone who’s going to the gym for the first time—you don’t overdo it. You start with the lightest weights and a few reps at a time.
When you feel good, you praise yourself for a good job. Tomorrow you’ll do a bit more.
Likewise, if you are using your willpower for the first time in a long time, you would do better if you use a little bit at a time. Don’t go all in and expect that your willpower will withstand an assault from the world out there.
Instead, stick to your guns on little things, building up that willpower muscle and making it stronger with each decision. So, for example, try a one-day fast, instead of a three-day one.
2. Praise and Celebration
When you succeed, you seek praise. If you have just run a marathon, the sound of crowds cheering encourages you to run another marathon. Praise builds mental endurance and willpower.
Likewise, we have runner-up medals for those who didn’t win the race because it encourages them to keep trying and not quit. With encouragement, you will begin to build a stronger willpower that applies in all areas of your life.
3. Don’t Overwork Your Willpower
Once you’ve discovered you can push yourself harder than before because your willpower is so much stronger, you may be tempted to undertake a larger challenge you are not ready for.
Whether this is ego-driven behavior or simply thinking you are ready when you’re not, overworking your willpower leads to failure.
Imagine training so hard for a race that when it comes to race day, you simply lack the energy to run and lose as a result. That’s exactly what happens if you overuse your willpower. Willpower can become exhausted, rendering you powerless.
Therefore, to build a strong and resilient willpower, be careful not to use up the limited amount of willpower you have available in any given situation.
This translates as not tackling challenges you’re not ready for, such as trying a starvation diet when you know you can barely stay away from chocolates or running a marathon when you struggle to walk around the block.
Willpower means you think critically about the decisions you are going to make, and engaging critical thinking can be exhausting, which will drain your willpower if overused.
4. Use Visualization
By imagining scenarios that show you succeeding, you can boost your willpower. It’s easier to believe you can do something when you’ve already seen yourself doing it in your mind. Willpower can follow the path of your visualization to help you resist a temptation or push forward to achieve something.
Athletes use visualization to boost their willpower and mental toughness all the time.
They imagine themselves running with such detail they feel their muscles burn, and they sense their exhaustion, but they also see themselves running on, finally winning. Visualization is a form of mental preparation that instantly helps willpower to last.
You can take it one step further with a vision board to help formalize what you want to achieve and how you want your willpower to help you get there.
5. Be Authentic in All Your Dealings
When you are constantly trying to hold up an image of someone you’re not, you are wasting precious energy on being inauthentic or being a fraud. Rather, save that energy to boost your willpower by living authentically.
After all, it’s easier to be truthful than to keep track of the lies you tell. Wasting energy will lead to willpower depletion much quicker than if you had simply been true to yourself and stuck to your guns when it came to your decisions.
6. Plan and Prepare to Avoid Situations of Defeat
If you’re a recovering alcoholic, one of the first things they teach you is to throw out all the booze in your home and never walk past a bar again. Makes sense, right?
Likewise, if you are easily tempted by something like a candy store when you are dieting, you need to save your willpower by not putting yourself into temptation’s path.
Plan how you will act when you face a temptation or situation that you need to push through.
Prepare by rehearsing what you will say: “No, thank you. I don’t want to have a drink.” When you prepare thoroughly enough, you can begin to convince your mind you can overcome the obstacle, making it all that much easier to do it.
7. Reduce the Risk to Your Willpower with Good Habits
When your willpower is under pressure, it is important to have some support to help you stay on track and not break your will. Habits can be a great way to help you stay up when the world is trying to get you down.
There’s a famous quote I love that explains this so well: Motivation gets you started, but habit keeps you going. When you cultivate great habits like dealing with stress in healthy ways, or respecting others no matter how they treat you, it will become much easier for you to handle people and temptations in appropriate ways.
You develop the mental fortitude to help you keep your mind together when others are losing theirs.
8. Meditate to Calm the Sea
Your willpower is the boat that sails the seas of your mind. When too much of the sea gets into the boat, your willpower sinks.
Yet, you can begin to soothe the storm with a healthy meditation session where you can quiet the waves until the sea is as peaceful as a mirror. Only then can your willpower really shine.
9. Practice Saying “No”
No is such a powerful word. When you get comfortable saying no, it will protect you from being tempted into a situation you would not normally choose to be in. But saying no doesn’t seem to be valued in our cultures.
Therefore, you need to say no to others more frequently and yes to yourself. Don’t apologize, but make the effort to stick to your core values, which will help boost your self-belief and your willpower.
Final Thoughts on How to Increase Your Willpower
Your willpower is something unique and precious. It can be eroded when you are constantly forced to be on alert and guard against temptations.
Boost your willpower and build a dynamic mental physique by using your willpower in small measures until you have trained it and developed an iron resolve.
It takes courage and wisdom to preserve your willpower, and only with a stoic approach to sustaining your willpower will you stand strong in the face of temptations.
Being authentic, planning how to avoid temptations, and building good habits to carry you will help prevent your willpower from being depleted.
Finally, learn the power of “no” so you can stand strong in the face of forces that will bring you down and keep you from your highest potential.
If you’d like to learn more about how habits can boost your goal-achievements and keep you on track, read our handy guide to the best habits that stick.