Willpower often seems like an unattainable ideal. Our culture often idealizes willpower, telling us that if we just had it, we would be able to make all the changes we hope for in our lives. But if it’s that simple, why does willpower seem so hard to achieve?
It turns out that there’s a lot more to willpower than simply having enough determination to make the right choice. Aspects like motivation, mood, and beliefs can significantly impact how much willpower we have and when we’re able to access it. We’ll unpack some of the science behind willpower and how you can learn to use it.
You Can’t Control Everything
We often use willpower to try to suppress feelings that seem uncontrollable. Whether it’s the desire to eat a whole box of cookies or the feeling that you want to scream at your partner, we all have self-destructive urges that we want to avoid. But trying to suppress these feelings can often be unproductive, causing them to return over and over again.
Instead of trying to will away negative feelings, it can be helpful to examine them. Negative emotions often tell us something about what our minds and bodies need. The urge to snack on junk food may be a sign that our body needs nourishment. A feeling of anger at someone else can be a sign of miscommunication or a feeling that your emotional needs aren’t being met.
Research shows that our motivations significantly impact our ability to use willpower. People who use willpower to fulfill their own needs and goals are generally more successful than those who use it to please others or meet an external standard. So instead of trying to suppress or ignore complicated feelings, try understanding what you need and how you can get it.
If There’s a Will, There’s a Why
Sometimes finding motivation is half the battle. We often think that motivation is something we can muster up, but motivation generally comes from the reasons we want to achieve our goal. Instead of just willing yourself to do something, examine the reasons why you want to do it. It’s essential to have compelling reasons for achieving your goals, ones that are meaningful and fulfilling to you. One example of motivation would be your attraction levels towards someone, and perhaps feeling motivated to capture their interest or attention. To learn more about the role attraction can play, check out professionally reviewed articles at BetterHelp.
It’s also healthy to question your goals. This can help you make sure the things you’re trying to achieve will be the things that will ultimately be productive and fulfilling in your life. If you examine your goals and find that they aren’t as fulfilling as you once thought, it’s ok. Getting in touch with your dreams and desires is an essential step to setting goals that will really fulfil you and propel you forward into the life you want to live.
You Don’t Have to Do Everything the Hard Way
Sometimes doing things the hard way is more rewarding. This is often true when investing time in building relationships or creating the foundation for future work. But sometimes, the hard way is just hard. Studies have shown that we can actually deplete our willpower resources, and one quick way to do this is by forcing ourselves to resist even the smallest of temptations.
Instead, think about focusing on one challenge at a time. For instance, if you’re trying to cook more meals at home, consider buying some premade ingredients rather than forcing yourself to make everything from scratch. While you’re trying to create a habit that may be difficult at first, try making other things easier for yourself. This will give you more energy to make more important and meaningful choices.