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).