Self-control, self-discipline, self-regulation, self-restraint, willpower, resolution, mental toughness, grit…whatever you call it, it’s a cognitive process that you need if you’re going to reach your desired goal. And as the word “self” implies, this is something you must develop within yourself. No one can do it for you.
Yet, if you were to list your strengths, would self-control and willpower be on your list? If so, are they near the top? If you’re like most people, they’re probably nearer the bottom.
So much of today’s marketing says you’ll succeed (lose weight, quit smoking, excel in business) if you just have more willpower. You’re told to control yourself and make yourself do it.
But we’re all emotional beings. We have ups and downs. The problem with being told you need more willpower is that it doesn’t give you the skills or tools to know how to develop it. As the definition states, it’s a process in your brain. And a process can be built if you don’t have one, or it can be improved if you do have one.
How to build and increase your willpower and self-discipline? Learn to listen to yourself in the following areas:
1. Care for your physical needs. You’ve heard it before, but it can’t be overemphasized…eat nutritious food, get plenty of restorative sleep and exercise. Your body is an engine and it needs the right fuel and maintenance to run at peak efficiency. If you don’t care for yourself you’ll be moody, make rash decisions and lose your cool.
2. Ride the tide. Desires and distractions ebb and flow like the tide. When you have a strong impulse to do something you shouldn’t, count to 10. Breathe deeply and center yourself to stay in touch with what’s really important to you. Wait 10 minutes before taking action. By then that wave of desire will become a ripple that you can easily step over.
3. Forgive yourself. It’s a vicious cycle if you default to self-disgust when you don’t measure up to your ideals. It leads to the “Why try?” attitude, which leads to binging on the undesirable behavior you’re trying to conquer. When you slip up, forgive yourself and move on. Acknowledge how the mistake makes you feel, but don’t wallow in it. Shift your attention to what you can do to improve yourself and the situation right now.
4. Live in the present. There’s a trap in living in the past. You know that’s what you’re doing if you say, “I failed before; I’ll fail again”. Or you label yourself “I’m a ___”. That’s not who you are. That’s a past behavior that you don’t have to model today. The other trap is living in the future. That’s indicated by saying, “I’ll get to it someday, but not today.” Learn to be mindfully present in the moment.
5. Focus on results. Your emotional state is determined by what you focus your attention on. Focus on problems and you prolong negative emotions. Focus on positive actions you CAN take and you’ll feel empowered, even if it means taking just one little step forward. That one step will lead to another, which leads to another…until you get the results you desire.
6. Say “YES” when you mean YES and “NO” when you mean NO. I know. You hem and haw because you don’t want to let someone down or put someone out. But you’re not honoring them with indecisive messages. Give them a clear answer and they’ll accept it.
Wishy washy phrases like, “I’m not sure” or “I think so” give your power away. In fact, it harms your physical and mental health. Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco found that if you have trouble saying “no” you’re more likely to experience stress, burnout and depression.
When you honor how you feel and honor the things you’re committed to doing, it increases your self-control and willpower. You won’t be spreading yourself too thin by over-committing yourself.
7. Avoid perfectionism and be willing to pay the price. Regrets and worrying about “what ifs” get you nowhere. Plan your strategy and funnel your energies into your chosen course of action. It won’t be perfect, because nothing can be perfect. Just do it as competently as you can. You’ll be surprised by how much you accomplish and how empowering it is!
So now you have a process when you need the willpower to attain a goal or objective. But how do you know if it’s the right goal? Would you like to ensure you’re spending your time and energy on the right thing for you, right now? Then please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).