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How To Increase Your Willpower? Just 10 Simple But Powerful Tricks

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How To Increase Your Willpower? Just 10 Simple But Powerful Tricks

Two things human beings consistently want more of: money and willpower. Lack of willpower manifests from the smallest moments of our days (getting out of bed in the morning) to the largest decisions of our lives (deciding once and for all to get healthy).

While we can barely get ourselves to do the dishes, the happiest people have what seem to be unlimited amounts of inner drive keeping their engines revved. But just like any other muscle, we can grow our willpower muscle and lift out of even our heaviest habits. Here’s how:

1. Use the Six Month Rule

The rule in our household is simple: for very expensive, luxurious, unnecessary item we want to buy,  we wait six months. If we still want the thing in six months, we’ll have the money for it and if we don’t want it in six months, we’ve just saved our closet yet another piece of unloved junk.

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In the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, authors Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney report “People who had told themselves Not now, but later were less troubled with visions of chocolate cake than the other two groups…” Knowing you’re just delaying gratification is more a bolster to willpower than a simple, flat no.

2. Decide to Decide

That’s some of the best advice I have ever heard. Decide to decide. It means don’t put off making a decision – get a wedding invitation in the mail? Check yes or no and send it back immediately. When you make clear decisions more often, you limit your mind’s ability to be thrown off later when the decisions start to pile up. If there are easy decisions you can make right now, make them and give your mind more mojo for later when your willpower is really tested.

3. Build an Armor for Stress

According to one study, we fall back on habits in times of stress – whether they are good or bad habits is up to us. To build an armor of good habits against stress means we have to practice those good habits daily. Fortifying your willpower by practicing incremental, small habits every day, as simple as putting your sneakers by your bed so you can step right into them for an early morning run, means that when tough times hit (and they will) your stress response will rely on that healthy habit instead of a negative one.

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4. Do It For Yourself and No One Else

What is it about our mothers telling us to eat our spinach like Popeye that makes us take such displeasure in spinach? I’m convinced we all started liking spinach when people stopped telling us to like spinach. And researchers agree, they found that when people chose to exert self-control for purely personal reasons they were far more likely to succeed on self-control tests than those practicing self-control because of outside influence.

5. Imagine Having the Willpower You Want

We all know the cliche mind over matter, but what happens when we actually put it into practice? In one study, imaginations were tested by asking three groups of participants watching a movie to either imagine they ate a lot of candy, imagine they had none, or imagine they resisted eating candy during the movie but had it later. According to this article, the study observed the last group who imagined resisting the candy as much less likely to go for it later. They imagined having more willpower and so grew some extra reserves of it.

6. Take a Nap

You heard me. Go to sleep. Baumeister writes, “Rest is good. In general, self-control problems and difficulties seem to show up with people who don’t get enough sleep. The longer people have been awake, the more self-control problems happen.” You know that craving late at night for that midnight snack? Your body is exhausted and mildly (or majorly) stressed and it craves comfort, not the Doritos. Grab for your pillow before you grab for that extra snack.

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7. Put Your Mental Energy Into What is Working

Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.” Concentrating on what doesn’t work for you keeps you from concentrating on what does work. When we think so much about how we are failing, how we are lacking willpower and how much we want that cookie, we’re missing the mental opportunity to reinforce thoughts of progress and how good it actually feels to be healthy.

8. Be Nice to Yourself.

You’re not choosing to do the easy thing. You’re choosing to do the hard thing. So understand that this won’t feel normal, natural or effortless. It’s going to require some resilience and some acknowledgement that you won’t be perfect. Learning how to stay in the game is the first step to hardwiring your willpower for keeps.

9. Get in the Mood.

Feeling depressed, anxious and irritable is no way to enact lasting change. To get those deep reserves of willpower bolstered up, you need to make sure your moods are helping you rather than hurting you. Getting your sleep regulated and predictable allows your mood to settle back to normal, making you more likely to practice the willpower you crave. 

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10. Build a Foundation to Plow Ahead.

Willpower requires fortitude and you don’t want to lose all your momentum by trying to change too many things at once. Make one change at a time and build from there. Baumeister says, “People will make five New Years’ resolutions. Each time you work on one, you’re taking away your capacity to work on the other. You don’t have any more willpower magically. You have the same amount.” One accomplishment will be encouragement enough to make the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Don’t deplete your resources, grow them bit by bit.

More by this author

Courtney Romano

Courtney is an actress, NASM-certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and wellness coach.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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