“Can you strengthen your willpower to achieve more success?” I was asked at a parent-teacher meeting.

I know from experience that it is hard to achieve anything if you don’t put your mind to it. But can strengthening your willpower lead to more success?

I decided to look into willpower, whether you can you strengthen it, and the benefits of having willpower.

What is willpower?

Willpower is the mental strength and determination to do what needs to be done. It helps you to stay focused on a goal despite obstacles or distractions. With willpower, you can stay motivated, make better decisions, and be more productive.

According to research, people with stronger willpower achieve greater success in life. For instance, students with higher levels of self-discipline tend to have higher grades, better health, and more successful jobs (University of Pennsylvania).

Your willpower is a critical aspect in your gaining success in any endeavor. You will stay more focused when studying for an exam, writing a book, or starting a business. It also helps you stay on track and avoid getting diverted by distractions. In short, you can achieve more success if you strengthen your willpower.

The psychology behind willpower

Willpower psychology is complex, but it is fundamentally a combination of self-control and motivation.

Motivation is the drive to achieve our goals, whereas self-control is the ability to resist temptation and control our impulses. Both are necessary for establishing and maintaining strong willpower.

Willpower is frequently connected with self-discipline, but the two are not synonymous. Willpower is the mental strength and determination to stay focused and motivated in the face of barriers or distractions, whereas self-discipline is the ability to continuously make decisions and execute activities that will lead to desired consequences.

Willpower is a key aspect of gaining success in any endeavor. Having strong willpower will help you in being focused and motivated, overcome difficulties and distractions, and make smarter decisions. You can achieve more success in whatever you set out to do by growing and increasing your willpower.

Benefits if you strengthen your willpower

There are many benefits if you can strengthen your willpower. People with strong willpower tend to be more successful in life. They develop stronger relationships without much effort. At work, they can solve problems more effectively, make sound decisions, and are better at dealing with stress.

Strong willpower can assist you in being motivated and focused on your goals. You are less prone to procrastination and more likely to act. You’ll also be able to maintain discipline and resist temptations that could distract you from your goals.

Strong willpower can also help you manage stress better. With strong willpower, you are better at controlling your emotions. This allows you to stay calm and focused in stressful situations.

So, by making small steps each day to build willpower and self-control, what you can achieve is absolutely limitless (Davidson).

Strategies to strengthen your willpower

To achieve success, you need to develop and strengthen your willpower. Here are some practical tips that will increase your willpower and self-discipline:

Set simple, achievable goals. Break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks, and focus on completing one task at a time. Check out our post on The Pygmalion Effect and how to set goals and expectations.

Develop a routine and stick to it. Set up a routine that can help you stay focused and motivated.

Take regular breaks. Taking regular breaks throughout the day will help you stay focused and energized. This will prevent you from getting overwhelmed.

Practice visualization and positive self-talk. Visualize your goals and repeat positive affirmations. This can help you stay motivated and focused on what you want to achieve.

Reward yourself when you achieve your goals. Set up a reward system for yourself. This can help you stay motivated and on track.

Eliminate distractions. Turn off your phone and limit your time on social media. This will help you stay focused.

Get plenty of sleep or rest. This will help you stay energized and focused on your goals.

What about self-control?

Here’s a ground-breaking experiment on self-control that will amaze you.

Strengthening your willpower chimpanzee

In this experiment, humans were offered snack food (peanuts, chocolates, raisins, etc.) and chimpanzees were offered grapes.

Each “competitor” was offered two treats now or six treats later.

The results showed that chimpanzees were willing to wait for a larger treat 72% of the time. Humans were only willing to defer gratification 19% of the time! (Rosati, et al.)

Are chimpanzees “smarter” or do they have more self-control than humans?

Well, it seems humans simply “outsmart themselves” much of the time. However, most of the humans in the experiment later explained that they could have “resisted” the snacks “if they wanted to.”

What’s going on here?

It has something to do with motivation, pleasure, and happiness, and it’s all in the brain.

The brain’s way of regulating motivation is through the production and release of a common neurotransmitter called dopamine. But dopamine is more the brain’s way of steering and biasing you towards biologically rewarding behaviors than it is for actually having happiness. In short, dopamine is nature’s way of guiding you to pleasure.

A thousand years ago, happiness came from security, affiliation, status, food, and sex. But today, there are countless other ways to “trick” your brain into those “time-tested” states of future pleasure (Blum, et al.).

Is it all pleasure driven?

Many people find pleasure in finding a bargain more than doing the actual transaction. For example, many people buy weight loss goods, exercise equipment, vitamins, and diet books. When they do this, dopamine floods into their brains. But when the products arrive, they aren’t so keen on using them.

Why? It’s because ordering the products produced dopamine with the promise of a slim figure. Having to use those products does not produce dopamine and its related pleasure.

So what you need to do is to use strategies that regulate that “pleasure-seeking dopamine”:

1. Whenever you are tempted by the “promise” of pleasure, take a deep breath, and think whether you really need to get the item, eat that cake, or buy that dress.

2. Every time you make a decision, focus on your main goal, and not on the immediate pleasure that is tempting you.

For more on how to improve your self-control, check out our post on “How to Improve Your Self-Control with These 3 Easy Steps.

Conclusion

Strengthen your willpower! Research has shown that willpower is a vital and necessary tool for success.

Strategies to strengthen your willpower include setting reasonable goals, formulating action plans, reducing distractions, and taking frequent breaks You can also use techniques for overcoming procrastination and staying motivated.

By strengthening your willpower and managing the “pleasure” seeking dopamine in your brain, you can achieve more success in whatever you set out to do.


References

  • Blum, K., Chen, A. L., Giordano, J., et al. “The Addictive Brain: All Roads Lead to Dopamine.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, vol. 44, no. 2, Apr-Jun 2012, pp. 134-43.
  • Davidson, A. Self-Control: Developing Amazing Willpower to Achieve Goals That Matter. E. C. Publishing, Aug 2016.
  • Egecioglu, E., Skibicka, K. P., Hansson, C., et al. “Hedonic and Incentive Signals for Body Weight Control.” Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders, vol. 12, no. 3, Sep 2011, pp. 141-51.
  • Jensen, E. “Do You Have More Self-Control Than a Chimpanzee?” Adapted with permission.
  • Rosati, A.G., Stevens, J. R., Hare, B., et al. “The Evolutionary Origins of Human Patience: Temporal Preferences in Chimpanzees, Bonobos, and Human Adults.” Current Biology, vol. 17, no. 19, 2007, pp. 1663-1668.