willpower (1)

Willpower. That seemingly elusive quality that so many people feel they lack.

When we think of willpower, we often think about dietary restraint, but that’s only a small portion of our lives that calls for a little self-discipline.

It might come as a surprise to you that we call on our willpower more often than we think. We refrain from snapping at our spouse after a long day. We stop before that third glass of wine on a work night. We begrudgingly get out of bed when we’d rather sleep in, to go to the gym, go to work, do the laundry, walk the dog. We brush and floss our teeth at night, even though we are drop-dead tired.

All of these things require us to call on willpower, just as much as we do when we are looking to keep an eye on the certain types or quantities of food or drink we have. Or most of us, we believe these things are merely a part of life. While that may be true, they still require willpower to persevere.


Your One & Only Willpower Tank

With all the willpower some people think they may have; it all comes from the same supply.

This means that whether you’re trying to:

  • avoid certain foods
  • follow a new budget
  • embark on a new exercise routine
  • quit smoking cigarettes
  • stop drinking


… whatever the case may be, it’s all coming from the same single supply of willpower. And no matter how much you wish not, eventually the tank will be empty, and something, somewhere, has got to give.

Ever wondered why so many people gain weight when they quit smoking? They exhaust their ability to exercise self-restraint by avoiding cigarettes, and have far less self-control to avoid overindulging in food.

So how can we preserve our own willpower?

The first step is to do some introspection, and ask yourself the important question: through what avenues am I losing my willpower?


How To Improve Your Willpower

Because everything is right at your fingertips, there is a constant bombardment of temptation that targets all your senses of touch, sight, smell, taste, etc. The constant ding of Facebook notifications, the email alerts, and the candy jar calling out to you from you co-workers desk — all these distractions are vying for your attention and causing you to draw on your willpower and make a decision to either restrain yourself and persevere or give in, leaving you fatigued and vulnerable in other areas of your life.

If you can figure out which of these types of distractions are the ones that are draining most of your willpower, then the next step is to identify how to limit them or eliminate them completely.

For example, I often buy my lunch from the local supermarket, but every time I go in there I am bombarded with a variety of different deals of all the nice sweets and treats and then often find myself having to talk myself out of taking up these offers to make sure I remain on track with my nutrition. Whether I consciously realize it or not, this is taking a huge toll on my willpower, leaving me more susceptible to give in to something later in my day.

I have now started to be more prepared and make my own lunch the night before and take it to work with me. No more temptations.

Maybe you pass a plate of cookies in your office break room every time you go in there to refill your coffee cup, and you have to fight with yourself to refrain from having one. Cover the cookies with foil, or place them in a cupboard. “Out of sight, out of mind” works brilliantly when it comes to preserving willpower.

The things that eat up your precious self-control aren’t always easy to notice, but like anything, being aware and mindful is key. If you take time to notice the things that you’re forcing yourself to do (or not do), you can start identifying ways to minimize choices and decisions that could be draining your willpower tank. Ultimately this will make things easier and you might find yourself coasting right past that next temptation, giving you some time to replenish and preserve willpower in your tank.