The Secret Land of Willpower
written by Tünde Kassai
Have you ever been dreaming about the Secret Land of Willpower? That magical world where you only have to decide that you want to eat in a healthy way, want to get enough sleep or start preparing for exams in time – and it all happens exactly like that?
Welcome aboard! This Land is at the top of our bucketlist to visit. So if all of us would like to enter this Land of Willpower, why does it seem to be so far away from our everyday life?
According to Roy Baumeister, the willpower researcher of the Florida State University, there are three major requirements in order to achieve our goals:
1. Have a strong motivation for change and have a clear view of your goal
2. Pay attention and keep checking your behaviour towards your goal
3. Start practice willpower step by step
Let’s see a few example of these three main components. Strong motivation needs to be established and you have to be really determined to invest energy and time into reaching your goal. You can be sure that there will be many barriers and problems that you have to overcome, so if you are half-hearted already at the beginning – well, that suggests that you are not prepared for the battle yet. This is the so-called ”can do” attitude which has became so over-hyped that we tend to take it as a joke even though its’ importance is deadly serious. If you would like to watch a funny example of determination and motivation combined with actions, please watch the story of ”Ormie and the biscuit”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBbuCoz67xI
Let’s move on to the next component: monitoring your behaviour. Trying to find those actions which can bring you closer to your goal and catching those tricky ones that keep pulling you back from it are all included in this requirement. Many times our reactions come so quickly and automatically that we don’t even notice the power of habits. And here is another interesting part: even those habits which seems to have nothing in common with each other, can all work together either to help you with self-control or to set you back. It doesn’t matter if it’s about watching the next episode of your favourite series or yelling at someone because he has rudely intruded in a queue: if you make the easy and comfortable decision, you kind of get one step further from making the right decision next time. Remember: rewarding decisions are rarely the easiest ones. If you are curious to get a deeper insight of this topic, please check out ”The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” written by Charles Duhigg.
Now it’s time to talk about what does it mean to exercise willpower. If we want to find a good symbol for it, we should look no further than a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Isn’t that great news? This means that if you would like to take running as a habit into your daily routine, the more days you get up early enough for running, the more easy it becomes to actually leave your bed and get your shoes, knowing that it’s all worth it. So you won’t need to build up the whole motivation and energy level from the very beginning: it’s becoming more and more easy and natural to fight.
Many people tend to think that they could be an expert of willpower if they had more time to figure out how it works. But the thruth is, if you are given extra time, it’s still not for sure that it will do the magic. The only time which is surely effective to start practicing willpower is today.
Weir, K. (2012) What You Need to Know about Willpower: The Psychological Science of Self-Control. American Psychological Association.