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Last Updated on August 2, 2018

How to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough

How to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough

Everyone has something they’d like to change. The desire for self-improvement and progression is innate. It is in our DNA.

Unfortunately, when it comes to change, old habits are hard to break, and it seems that we fail more often than we succeed. For those things that we struggle with, it also seems that our willpower is never quite enough.

What can we do about this? Are we doomed to live the same behavioral patterns of the past? Can we actually increase our willpower, and create lasting positive changes in our lives?

The answer is a resounding YES! Willpower is like a muscle and it gets stronger with regular use.

Recent research, as detailed in such books as, Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, And What You Can Do About It by Kelly McGonigal, and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, suggests that we are not forever bound to our poor habits, and that we can actually change, and increase our willpower in the process.

So how do we do it? How do we increase our willpower, and direct powerful changes in our lives?

To assist in this process, I’ve summarized the research on the subject into 15 “actionable steps” that, if built into habits, will yield powerful results:

1. Feed our brains with regular, protein rich meals

Don’t skip meals. Our brain is our decision making muscle and its ability to provide us with the necessary willpower to make correct decisions is influenced by whether it is sufficiently fed.

So we should eat regular meals, ideally low-glycemic foods, healthy proteins, vegetables and complex carbohydrates, so that we can avoid the glucose rush (associated with sweets and simple carbs) that immediately plummets.

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2. Keep it simple: work on one change at a time

Willpower can be increased, but it is a slow and gradual process (just like increasing muscle mass). So daily we are working with a fixed amount of it (although that amount can increase over time with practice).

We can’t change everything all at one, and we can’t massively change our lives at stressful times. If we want to see real change, we should start small, and tackle one long term goal at a time.

3. Take a bite of dark chocolate for a quick energy boost

Sometimes we are in a position where we need to make a quick decision, and it feels tough. We should take a bite of dark chocolate. Seriously. The small energy boost will help our brains with the decision.

Obviously, it is much better to eat healthy, slow burning foods to provide a steady source of fuel to our brains, but in the event of a “willpower” emergency, indulging a little isn’t a bad thing. It can actually help to increase our willpower.

4. Get a good night’s sleep

Adequate rest improves our self-control and provides an optimal environment for the brain to function. Rest reduces the body’s need for glucose, and it allows the body to make better use of what we have. Adequate rest is generally 7-8 hours a night for an adult, and 10-12 hours a night for a child.

Self-control requires brain power, and when we are tired, our bodies generally don’t deliver enough glucose to our brains.

5. Steer clear of temptation

People who have lots of self-control don’t need to exercise their willpower as often. Therefore, when willpower is required, it is strong and in steady supply.

So we can increase our willpower by not putting ourselves in situations where willpower is required – steering completely clear of those “danger spots” where temptation is present and willpower is necessary.

6. Develop small but powerful habits

Research confirms that good habits strengthen our willpower. Even if we start with something simple – like making our beds – this can have a powerful positive effect on our willpower. This occurs because these small habits build self-discipline and self-control, and that spreads to other areas of our life.

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7. Make sure our “to-do” list is manageable

Everyone has some form of a “to-do” list. We may not realize it, but this ubiquitous productivity tool may actually be increasing our stress, and decreasing our willpower.

When we create endless lists, and leave tasks perpetually undone, our subconscious nags us about it, and we end up worrying far more than acting. When we do this, we get in a bad mood, and our emotional state plays into our ability to resist temptation.

8. Take frequent breaks

It is impossible to exercise perfect self-control all the time. We simply “run out” of willpower and end up making poor decisions if we don’t supplement ourselves with rest and breaks.

Take a nap from time to time. Go grab a (healthy) bite to eat. Watch a little TV for a minute or two, and then get back to our tasks and goals.

When we do this, we’ll be refreshed, we’ll have more willpower and we’ll produce better work.

9. Meditate for 5 minutes a day

Take 5 minutes and just focus on our breath. Detach for only five minutes from the chaos around us.

Do we realize that every time our mind wanders and we have to get it back on track, we’re having to tap into our reservoir of willpower? The simple act of building self-awareness through mediation will help us in our impulse tendency.

When we become “mindful,” we are also engaging that part of our brain that we need for willpower, rather than just letting our impulses take over.

Here’s a 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

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10. Take it easy on the cocktails

This one should be glaringly obvious. Alcohol impairs our judgment, reduces our self-awareness, and impedes our willpower.

So be mindful of how much you’ve had to drink when making decisions and try to avoid an excess amount if you’re in a situation where you have to exercise willpower.

11. Plan in advance how to deal with our temptations

Do we have a plan to deal with our temptations? When we see that donut on the counter of the lunch room at work, do we have a plan to avoid it?

Don’t leave this answer to chance. Instead, write out an action plan however simple it may be.

Having a pre-determined plan can significantly increase our willpower when presented with the temptation.

12. Remember why we are doing this, and what it will cost if we quit

What is the purpose of changing our behavior in the first place? What are we trying to accomplish? What will we lose if we give in to our bad habits? Why do we want to change?

When we consistently remind ourselves of the answers to these questions, our willpower is increased to stick to our plans.

13. Do the opposite of what we normally do

Every time we modify our routines, we are exercising self-control. The more that we can exercise self-control, the stronger our willpower will be.

When we succeed in making small changes, we develop the ability to take on much larger ones.

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So start small. Consciously try to brush your teeth, eat, or open the door, with your non-dominant hand.

It may feel very strange at first, but it actually goes a long way to increasing our willpower.

14. Choose a reward in advance

For a given change, if we first determine a reward in advance, our willpower to follow through on our change will be increased.

Make it a game. Our brain is hardwired to pursue positive rewards. Don’t get down on yourself for the past. Just set a reward and make the change.

15. Anticipate roadblocks

Before we start down the path of a new goal, we should consider the roadblocks that may arise in our path. There is always resistance in the path of a positive pursuit.

When we anticipate them in advance, when they actually arise, we have stronger willpower to deal with them (since we’ve already contemplated them arising).

We aren’t struck by surprise, we are simply encountering something that was part of the original plan.

So there you go, 15 ways you can start doing now to increase your willpower. Your willpower is like a muscle, you need to exercise it often so it will grow!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on August 21, 2018

15 Signs You’re an Old Soul and Think Differently

15 Signs You’re an Old Soul and Think Differently

If you’ve often felt slightly removed from the worries of today and miss the simplistic life of a time gone by, or somehow feel a little out of sync with what your peers are concerned with, there’s a chance you may be an old soul.

Being an old soul refers to how you view and approach life.

Your views echo those of someone much older than you, who has lived a long and fruitful life. You approach life with a greater sense of knowledge and wisdom coupled with a greater sense of inner wealth.

If you’ve ever met an exasperated 10 year old saying, “Kids today are so…”, or a 28 year old who says, “In my day…”, an awful lot, chances are you’re in the presence of a beautiful old soul. They’re often perplexed, and unable to relate to the things people their own age consider fun, or important, and so feel out of place.

They look at life through a vignette of experiences they may not have lived, yet, but somehow, just seem to know.

So if you’ve ever felt like you’ve lived before, and you have a wealth of wisdom you can’t explain, chances are you have been reincarnated—

—or maybe, you’re just an old soul!

Here are some tell-tale signs to help you find out if you’re an old soul.

1. You know there’s another way to do things.

You often say things like, “I have a feeling this will work”, or “there’s no harm in trying.” People may view your suggestions as outdated or done, but you know that sometimes, just sometimes, the tried and tested ways of doing things are best. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

You feel that not all problems require a new and innovative solution, and going round in circles when the answer may be staring you in the face is usually a waste of valuable time, and energy.

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You have no problem trying out new things, but know, too, that oldies can also be goodies.

2. You give advice well beyond your years.

You somehow seem to know how to do things you haven’t even done yourself yet. It’s like you’ve lived before, and just know how it all works. People often look at you with that “how do you know?” expression, and you respond with a confident, “I just know!”

Truth is, you do just know, but don’t know how you know. Those people who come to you for advice, though somewhat freaked out by your amazing prophetic powers to impressively offer solutions and predict outcomes, trust you wholeheartedly and don’t doubt your authenticity.

3. You like to think things through.

Even the most impatient of people will need to think things through if they are an old soul at heart. You need that time to maul it over in your head.

It’s an important part of your to-do process, and it enables you to move forward in the direction most in sync with your mind, body and soul.

To you, not being able to think things through, even a little, leaves you feeling uneasy, and that does nothing to help.

4. You don’t waste time asking why.

After you’ve thought things through, you move ahead, confident in the knowledge that you’ve done all you needed to do to get going.

You don’t waste time in trying to justify it to yourself or anyone else. You have little time and patience for the nonsensical and would prefer to utilize your time getting things done, rather than sitting around talking about getting things done.

In the end, you understand that whatever you do, you trust that all things work out just as they are supposed to, and you don’t want to question that wonderful process.

5. You don’t like to go out just for the sake of going out.

It’s quality over quantity for you. You love to go out and have fun, but going out because others feel it is required, or you look boring if you don’t, holds no merit for you.

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When you go out, you’d like to experience something; something that resonates with your way of perceiving the world and challenges you.

You’ll happily spend money on those things that give you wonderful experiences and broaden your horizons. Going out just because, seems pointless to you; you’d rather save your time, and money, and do something of quality.

6. You have an appreciation for old literature.

You respect the classics. You’re often found getting euphorically high off old books. You’ve probably sniffed a good few old books in your time, and you don’t care who sees.

For you, old literature should be respected and valued; they hold history and historical experience between their pages and deserve to be exalted.

7. You have old ears.

You love and appreciate the classics and have a longing for the musicality of those nostalgic tunes. Your record (that’s right, record!) collection looks like a retro music store. Probably only 10% of your collection consists of what you refer to as “nowadays” music, the rest are from decades gone by.

You know only a handful of today’s artists, and that’s only because you haven’t heard an album yet to rival your favorite Grateful Dead album, or your favorite Frank Sinatra track.

You don’t go out of your way to avoid modern music, it just doesn’t seem to whet your appetite. So you’ll happily pump your beloved Janis Joplin or Nat King Cole all the way home. Heaven!

8. You see no need in being unnecessarily stressed.

You don’t invite drama just because it makes you feel alive, no, you’d much prefer to live without it.

You appreciate the quiet, and invite peace. It’s become apparent to you that the world views stress and busyness as being productive.

But you know that being productive has nothing to do with being crazy busy or stressed, but everything to do with how well you utilize your time.

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So you’re mindful about what you spend your hours doing, and make sure your doing something worthwhile, and not just keeping busy for busy sake.

9. You love to meet new people.

To you, talking to people is enriching and adds to your experience of the world. This isn’t because you just can’t help chit chatting, but more so because you are genuinely fascinated by those you share this planet with, who can offer different perspectives.

You love being able to swap stories with people you’ve only just met. Plus, it also serves to make those trips to the bank all the more interesting!

10. You value deep connections.

For you, it’s all about quality over quantity. You require a deeper connection with those around you in order to feel any connection at all.

Half-hearted friendships, surface-level relationships and fly-by-night hook-ups are not your thing. You value the essence of deeper friendships and long lasting relationships, as you give yourself wholly to them, too.

11. You love learning.

Nothing gets you going more than learning more about yourself, other people and the world around you.

For you learning is growth, and growth is part of life. As an old soul, you approach learning from the understanding that it doesn’t have to lead anywhere, for example, a degree or certificate.

Sure, those things are great and offer a sense of accomplishment, but for you it’s the act of learning something new and wonderful that motivates you, not the initials after your name!

12. You don’t see the fuss about the latest craze.

Following others just to fit in? Where’s the fun in that? To you, being a style chaser or tech follower is something you can never quite get your head around.

Sure you may even own a Kindle or you may have an iPad, but now they sit there, gathering dust, because you miss the feel (and smell) or the real thing, and computer works just fine.

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You don’t really care whether you’re an early adopter or a late comer. None of the things defines you, and you’re okay with that.

13. You value the company of those much older than you.

You want to drink in their wisdom and you hang on their every word as they tell you stories of their youth. You laugh at their accounts of old trends, and cry at the war stories, you reminisce with them about long lost loves, and actually listen to their pearls of wisdom.

At a time when we seem to have less and less time for the more mature among us, the old soul has nothing but time to give. That’s because you appreciate what they have to share, and let’s be honest, you secretly wish for a time when life seemed so simple.

14. You are the epitome of calm.

You are the steadfast one, the one neither swayed, nor toppled, even in a crisis. You probably say things like, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” and tell people to “Get a grip!”

To everyone else, you appear disconnected, but to those who know you well, you’re actually hard at work, you just work differently.

You’ve learned that nothing actually gets done if everyone is running around losing their heads; someone needs to be the calm force. This is just how you make sense of what is happening.

You stop. Wait. Listen. Then decide what steps to take next.

15. You truly understand what it means to give.

To you, there’s no better way to live, than to give.

Giving your time, or money or those things you simply have no need for is the most rewarding thing anyone can do with their short time on earth. It isn’t an ego thing, far from it.

For you, giving is the purest act of love. Plus, you see no point in holding on to things you cant take with you, so you’re more than happy to travel light!

Featured photo credit: Portrait of fashionable well dressed man with beard posing outdoors looking away, confident and focused mature man in coat standing outside at sunny evening, elegant fashion model via shutterstock.com

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