Empowering Your Willpower

Need help losing weight? Quitting smoking? Battling some other addiction or problem? Missing the willpower it takes to make needed changes in your life?

Randall Moore, MD, Psychiatry, offers some tips to increase your willpower to help you take charge and change.

Make a list of short- and long-term goals concerning the activity you want to change.
  • Pick personally meaningful goals.
  • Choose goals that are challenging—but not too easy and not impossible.
  • Refer to your goals regularly to help keep your focus.
  • When you meet a goal, check it off.
Make a list of the advantages and the disadvantages of exercising your willpower concerning the activity you want to change.
  • Refer to your lists regularly to help keep your focus.
  • Keep reminding yourself of why you want to make the change.
Recognize that sometimes you have to “just do it.”
  • You have to start somewhere.
  • Technically: “Sometimes activation has to precede motivation.”
Expect small changes at first.
  • Don’t anticipate sudden massive improvement.
  • Baby steps are OK.
Organize and plan when, where and how you will exercise your willpower.
  • Find fun, novel ways to use your willpower. For example, if you want to exercise more, don’t overwork yourself on a treadmill; instead, go walking in a park you’ve never been to before. Excite your senses with a new experience.
  • Be mentally ready to put your willpower into action.
  • Have a back-up plan in case something falls through with your original plan.
Track your progress on a spreadsheet.
  • Record your attitudes and feelings as well.
  • Graph your progress over time so you can easily see your improvement or what caused setbacks.
Occasionally test yourself so you can see how much you’ve improved.
  • Make a game out of challenging yourself.
  • Compete against a friend or co-worker, motivating both of you.
Listen to and enjoy the praise from others who note your improvement.
  • Enjoy the companionship of others; for example, go hiking with a friend and encourage each other.
Accept the consequences when you fail.
  • Give up something you like.
  • Do an extra chore.
Allow yourself a reasonable reward when you’ve had measurable success in exercising your willpower.
  • Treat yourself to a movie at the cinema.
  • Buy yourself a small item.
Show your recorded results to someone else to help keep yourself accountable.

Dr. Moore suggests using these helpful hints anytime you desire to enact the change you want to see in yourself.

“What you have to do and the way you have to do it are incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that’s another matter.”

— Peter F. Drucker

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Empowering Your Willpower