How to strengthen willpower and self-discipline?
What is the benefit of having a strong willpower?
People having strong will power are generally more happier, healthier, successful, make more money, lead a longer life and have more satisfying and long‐lasting relationships than those lacking it. In a nutshell, you can say if one want to improve his/her life, will power is a strong place to start.
Today we are going to talk about how focusing or not doing something actually makes us do it, how our brain reward system works and how the will power is like a muscle and the more we train it, the stronger it gets.
Understand our brain reward system.
Why do you feel bad after getting our immediate desires like buying new clothes even if you already have it, wasting a lot of time in front of TV, etc.? Why do you do it again even if you know? It’s because the reward system of our brain is not our friend always, sometimes it leads us in the wrong direction. Let’s understand the phenomena what exactly happens in our brain if we crave something. When you see or smell a food item that you like, our system releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is responsible for activating the areas of brain responsible for attention, motivation and action. These dopamine can be activated by anything which makes us feel good like tasty food items, an attractive face, sale on shopping, games, gadgets, etc. And when this dopamine is released, that particular thing becomes very desirable even if we are not interested in it in the long term. This is the reason why we engage ourself but later on it leaves us feeling unsatisfied and guilty. So, what is the solution to this problem? You can actually make this weakness your strength by combining the undesirable tasks with the pleasant ones which activates your dopamine. For example‐ you can finish your boring paperwork over your favourite songs and coffee.
Stop always thinking about your desires or overthinking about anything.
Here is a challenge for you. Don’t think about your dream world for the next five minutes. Can you do it? I’m sure most of you will fail. Even though we don’t think about it usually. If you actively try not to think about your dream world, it becomes almost impossible to stop. This was shown by the researchers who thought that suppression can help us in stop thinking about the very thing we are not trying to think. This was an interesting fact that researchers came to know.
There was a researcher called Roger by Master in Germany, he had set up a willpower test. He had made two groups of students of a class named group A and group B. Group A was locked in a room for 20 minutes and was given cookies and other stuffs and was told not to eat those stuffs. And the students of group B were also given the food stuffs but nothing was said. After 20 minutes, the students of both groups were given some puzzle to solve in order to test their willpower. Can you guess what could had happened? The students of group A solved that puzzle for only 7 minutes whereas that of group B lasted for 12 minutes. So, how can you overcome cravings without stop thinking about it? Instead of deciding that you won’t do that particular thing, devote your energy to your self‐control. For example: When you are on a diet, don’t think that you will not eat fast-food. Instead, devote your energy to the idea that a decline in the unhealthy food will automatically lead you to follow your diet chart.
Willpower is like a muscle.
The human brain has got a specially developed part known as prefrontal lobe of the neocortex and this enables us to do the most difficult tasks. In other words, it enables us to do all the tasks doesn’t matter whether a particular task is pleasurable or boring for you, yet you will/can do it. So, what is the trick then? How can you do it? You have to utilize the power of your prefrontal cortex in reconfiguring your mind. Now, the question comes how to reconfigure your mind? See, the prefrontal lobe of the neocortex is very much like muscles in our body. Just like your muscles get tired with usage, similar is the case for our willpower. When you wake up early in the morning, your willpower is strong just like your muscle but as the time passes by it gets exhausted. For example:‐ Have you ever lifted heavy furniture for one long day? At the end of the day, you become so tired that you are no longer able to lift anything even if you want to. Same is the case for our willpower, after flexing your willpower muscle too much, you simply become exhausted and is no longer to exercise anymore. And if you work on your willpower, you could improve the strength of your willpower muscle.
Then, why does the overuse of will power make you run out? Because every single time, the successful attempt to exert self‐control draws from the same limited sources. This means that resisting a strong desire for something will not only weaken your ability to avoid other temptations, but also it gives rise to procrastination and other will power failures. And this willpower exhaustion happens all the time. This is because many daily tasks you would not think of as the willpower challenges like doing boring assignments, sit through a boring assignments. And just as it is possible to train your arm muscle through weight lifting. It is also possible to train your willpower muscle with challenges of willpower. By performing small but regular willpower challenges, you can gradually improve your self-control. Practicing often with this small temptation will train your willpower muscle in the long run, which will help you cope with all the situations when it comes to larger willpower challenges.
The willpower can be enhanced by practicing it and this is an important conclusion. The more you practice self‐control, the more you will be better at it. By practicing more self‐control, your prefrontal cortex will exercise stronger willpower and the willpower enhanced in one area can be used in every areas of life. So, it can be concluded that the best way to strengthen your willpower is to meditate. It is one of the most effective techniques to enhance self-control and discipline. Why am I saying, meditation is the best way to enhance your will power? Because, biologically, the prefrontal cortex has three portions in it and when you are in a state of meditation, all the three faculties get exalted. It doesn’t matter whether the quality of your meditation is low or high because your endeavour to meditate is an exercise in self‐control. Even in the low quality meditation where many thoughts are coming to your mind, your intellect control the mind to come back to meditate and so, you are exalting these three faculties. Also, the discovery of researches tells us that the regular practice of meditation has the ability to change the configuration of your brain in merely 21 days and after developing the habit to meditate, what is then required? Only you have to utilize your will power to create the healthy or beneficial habits.
I hope you got out at least one helpful thing that you can apply in your life from this article.
“WILL POWER IS A STRONG MUSCLE, THE MORE YOU USE IT, THE STRONGER IT GETS”.