Sheer Will

Wiki defines willpower as “the unwavering strength of will to carry out one’s wishes.” Willpower is self-discipline, the training and control of oneself and one's conduct.

The 2011 book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” (by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and New York Times science writer John Tierney) concluded that willpower is actually limited and depends on a continuous supply of the simple sugar glucose. When glucose is depleted, you fall prey to all your primal instincts…losing self-control and making bad choices.  The solution? “Try to get some glucose in you,” Mr. Tierney told NPR.

More recently studies actually demonstrated that willpower is more in our heads than in our blood sugar levels. When people actually believe that willpower is self-renewing, and limitless —“that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one”, said the NYT — then people successfully exert more and more willpower.  It seems that self-control and self-discipline are self–perpetuating.

Willpower needs to be fueled and rested like a muscle.   It also needs to be exercised like a muscle.

Research has shown you can strengthen willpower through visualization:  if your goal is weight loss, preview your day around food, anticipate where issues may come up and plan on how you will deal with them.   If you have to go to a dinner party do not want to drink alcohol, plan out your evening without alcohol and visualize yourself drinking club soda.  Research shows those who think ahead and have mental images about how to deal are the ones who are successful.

Here are a few other key things about willpower (from Metabolic Effect):

1) Balanced blood sugar levels in the brain increase willpower, along with other cognitive functions, like decision-making.   Feed your brain with protein!

2) Take on big mentally draining tasks earlier in the day.

3) Realize that high stress days make your willpower tank run low.  Plan ahead for your stress, and plan on a strategy for how you are going to deal with your stress.  (Meditation, deep breathing, smiling, yoga, etc…)

Body change is often times about MIND change…“do we want to be a people who dismiss our weaknesses as unchangeable? “ Says Greg Walton (an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford).  



I love tennis.  Watching tennis, playing tennis.  It is such a mental game, it is the closest thing to two boxers in a ring or two gladiators fighting to the death in a colosseum.  (If you saw Wimbledon 2008 Nadal vs. Federer, you know what I mean.)  

So if you know I love tennis, you know I love Rafa Nadal.  Besides Nadal’s status as GOAT, he has one of the most brilliant and unorthodox coaches the tour has seen. Toni Nadal, simply Uncle Toni to everyone, has been coaching Rafa since he was 4 years old. 

Uncle Toni’s lessons on tennis were also lessons on life.  He is famous for prohibiting Rafa to fly on private jets, or to have an assistant carry his belongings while traveling;  from Nadal’s youth he stressed that he never celebrate a win, never lament a loss;  every game is just another game. Most of all he stressed the need to endure, and always give your best. 

Uncle Toni’s philosophy brings both the wisdom of the Dalai Lama and the Force of Obi Wan Kenobi.  His first bit of advice to his nephew, aged 4, was “Hit the ball hard;  then we will see about keeping it in.” 

Here are a few more Uncle Toni-isms:

“It is more important to be a good person than a good player.”

“People sometimes exaggerate this business of humility. It is a question simply of knowing who you are, where you are, and that the world will continue exactly as it is without you.” 

“What you can never allow is to fail because of loss of will.”

"It means learning to accept that if you have to train 2 hours, you train 2 hours...If you have to train 5, you train 5.  If you have to repeat an exercise fifty thousand times, you do it.  That's what separates the champions from the merely talented."

“You’ve got two roads to choose from:  tell yourself you’ve had enough and we leave, or be prepared to suffer and keep going.  The choice is between enduring and giving up.”