How to improve willpower
We all get into that battle between long term goals and instant gratification. When we struggle with low frustration tolerance and are unable to deal with the discomfort of abstaining, we throw our willpower away and gratify ourselves in the moment, only to feel worse afterwards and so the whole cycle continues. Read further to find ways to improve willpower…
It doesn’t help us to achieve our long term goals when we have the attitude that life MUST be fair, easy, well ordered, exciting, pleasurable, or hassle free. When life doesn’t conform to these standards we look for instant gratification to help us escape from our discomfort.
We are constantly weighing up the pros and cons as we choose our behaviour. This process often operates unconsciously, below our awareness. The more advantages we see in the moment, the ore we will be swayed towards the behaviour with the most possible rewards in the moment.
List the disadvantages of not having willpower. Then really think deeply about the disadvantages – if your lack of willpower is related to overeating, imagine the consequences of regular over eating – lack of confidence, shame, disappointment, reactions from others, health issues etc
Imagine the negative outcomes of overeating as often as possible. Visualise this situation regularly. Every time you are tempted to over eat, visualise your list of disadvantages. This results in a heightened awareness of the consequences of immediate actions.
At the same time, learn to challenge your own “musts” and “shoulds”…do you believe life should be fair and easy? What thoughts are telling you to give up on your long term goals? Make a list of why your “must” thinking is false. Here are a few examples:
“I must be perfect” = challenge and reframe to something like this: I am an imperfect human and as such, I am allowed to be imperfect. I will sometimes act imprefectly.
“There is no law carved in stone stating that “I MUST”…”
“I may want to be thin but I don’t need to be thin. I would prefer it, it does not have to be a “MUST”.”
“Reality is reality – not what I think it must be.”
“One failure doesn’t mean total failure, or that I’ll never succeed.”
Use positive affirmations to help you stay on track. Write them on post it notes and leave the around your home where you can read the often.
- Vividly imagine a situation where you feel tempted to drink alcohol/smoke/eat etc You’re experiencing a strong urge, but you resist.
- Now as you imagine this, allow yourself to feel anxious, depressed or agitated about not giving in to the temptation. Do this for a few seconds.
- Still picturing the scene in step 1, make yourself feel concerned, disappointed or appropriately frustrated – INSTEAD of feeling anxious depressed or agitated. Since you create and control your feelings, with persistence you can modify them.
Show yourself that you can improve willpower and tolerate frustration even though you don’t like it. Convince yourself that no law of the universe says you must eat/drink/smoke etc merely because you want to. Remind yourself that discomfort and deprivation are just that and no more – never awful, terrible or horrible.