When it comes to breaking old habits or accomplishing new goals, did you ever wonder why the willpower needed to change comes naturally for some folks and harder for others? The reason just might have to do with self-discipline.
Willpower helps us control or reject harmful or useless impulses by giving us inner strength. Self-discipline is the companion of willpower. It gives us the stamina to accomplish whatever we want to do. When our will power and our self-discipline work side by side, we feel in charge and in control of ourselves. It is only then that we can choose our behaviors and reactions, instead of being ruled by them. Any act that requires self-control requires willpower. Choosing black shoes over brown shoes, tuning out the television in order to get your work done, or choosing oatmeal over a buttered bagel for breakfast, are all examples of this.
Our willpower is tested over and over in all kinds of situations every day in work, at home, and even in our relationships. Losing weight, staying on a budget, or even getting more organized are constantly pulling at the strength of our willpower. Strengthening your self-discipline and your willpower is crucial for personal growth and success.
Here are some exercises to practice to keep your self-discipline and willpower at its best:
Be prepared and plan ahead. Depending on the goals you choose for yourself, always make sure you are prepared to make them happen. If your goal is to spend more time in the gym, keep a small gym bag in your car. If you are spending the day out and don’t want to ruin your healthy diet, pack nutritious snacks for the day. If you go shopping but want to stick to your budget, leave the credit cards at home. Also, cut down on the number of decisions you have to make each day. Schedule dinners for the week every Sunday. Lay out your work clothes earlier. Coordinate your exercise routines for the week on your phone.
Don’t wait, get it over with. Basically, avoid procrastinating. Procrastinating leads to stress and does nothing for our willpower. Take advantage of your free time and get things done as soon as possible.
Track your progress. Keeping a log of your goals and tracking your activity is a great incentive to see how far you have come and to motivate you to keep going. All that effort you have put into reaching your goals will boost your willpower and your confidence.
Focus on the finish line. These days, with all the social media and technology channels we involve ourselves in, it is easy to get distracted and even harder to concentrate. Learn to eliminate your distractions instead of ignoring them. Turn off cell phones, silence email notifications, wear earplugs, close the door, shut off the television. Do whatever you need to do keep your attention focused on the end result.
Lessen your stress. Nothing weakens your resolve or zaps your initiative like stress. Stress and self-control require the same amount of mental energy, which means once you become stressed, your willpower goes right out the window. When something is making you feel stressed, remove yourself from the situation, even if it’s for a brief moment. Changing your environment helps change your perception and recharge your batteries. Stepping outside and breathing in some fresh air helps us relax and get back on track for success.
Fuel up. The more you consume good food, the more willpower you will have. Foods containing protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, such as salads, tofu, nuts, spinach, tomatoes, and Greek yogurt, are great willpower boosters. Baby carrots and a andful of raisins are naturally high in sugar and can raise your glucose supply fueling your brain quickly. Eating healthy snacks and meals every four hours helps keep you “will-powered” all day.
Learn routines. Debating whether or not to do something uses up a lot of mental energy. But when it happens routinely, you don’t have to think about it. For example, when starting a new workout routine, pick a time when you can work out consistently, like first thing in the morning. Place your work out gear by the bed so you are motivated to exercise right away. After, give yourself a little reward every time you finish a workout. This will trick your brain into associating the rush of pleasure that comes from a treat, like a coffee after your morning run, with exercise.
Praise. When you first start something new like an exercise or healthy eating routine, you may feel like you are using your willpower more because it is new to you. You have to be ready to accept change and slowly you will get to the point where you don’t feel like you HAVE to do anything, exercising will become a part of your daily routine. In the meantime to keep your willpower strong it can be useful to reward yourself. Take the time to pamper yourself a bit more or just do something out of the ordinary that will give you an incentive to keep going. Eventually you won’t need to reward yourself as everything becomes a habit.