Sticking to a diet, exercising three or more times a week, waking up and taking a contrast shower to start the morning. These are all things that require willpower.
Willpower is defined as, “control exerted to do something or restrain impulses.” For example, if the impulse is to eat a cookie but you know it will hurt your diet, willpower is what makes you not eat the cookie and eat a carrot instead. Willpower takes the urges that make us do potentially bad habits and denies them through sheer will.
Roy Baumeister is one of the pioneers of this school of thought. In one famous study quoted frequently, he brought people into a room.
The table in the room contained a plate of warm, delicious-looking cookies and beside it was a bowl of radishes. Some subjects were asked to enjoy that alluring cookie, while others were asked to eat the radishes.
Afterward, they were given 30 minutes to finish what most would describe as a boring, geometric puzzle. They found that people who ate radishes (and didn’t to full-blown Cookie Monster) gave up on the puzzle after about 8 minutes, while the people who could eat the cookies lasted for an average of 19. By draining their willpower tank to not eat the cookies, they had none left to persevere on solving the puzzle.
Think of willpower as a muscle. If you were to do 8 sets of 12 reps to complete failure on bench press, your muscles would be spent if you tried to do a subsequent chest movement. But, if you did 3 sets of 5 reps to about 3 reps shy of failure on bench press, you would be able to perform much better than if you had gone to failure on the first exercise. Willpower has been demonstrated to be the same way.
In the hit book, “Relentless, From Good to Great to Unstoppable,” Author Tim Grover, who has trained such greats as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade, grouped athletes into three groupings:
- Cleaner: The best, think Jordan. The guy who expects the ball in crunch-time.
- Closer: Lebron James a few years back (he has since become a "Cleaner" I would argue). The man who wants to make the game winning shot, but doesn’t expect it to the level of a Jordan.
- Cooler: An elite athlete.
The work it takes to be a cleaner requires unthinkable willpower. The hours of training, pain, sacrifice, adherence to strict diet, lifestyle modifications… It’s draining.
Is it any surprise men like Kobe, Tiger Woods and even Jay-Z (it isn’t only athletes who can be Cleaners) have extramarital affairs? They use up all of their willpower being the best at what they do that they have none left to suppress the human urge to procreate and the male biological drive to have multiple partners. No excuses here, but you get the point.
Taking all of this into account, just like we can build muscle, we can increase our willpower limit. It just, like building muscle, takes time and progressive overload. How do we do this? By setting small willpower goals and once we reach them and sustain them, set new ones. I am about to lay out a strategic plan for YOU to improve all areas of your life.
In my article on habits I outline some things that will make you perform better and spiral into other avenues of life. Here are a few habits to enhance willpower.
Improve Your Willpower
#1 - Daily Exercise
This seems like a no-brainer, especially for our readers. But we need to reinforce how vitally important it is to maintain this habit and not fall off the wagon.
50% of people who start an exercise program quit within six months.  This means you need to find something you LOVE and make it a habit. This will take willpower, but if you like it, you will stick to it! So you don’t like weights?
Do aerobics! You don’t like bodybuilding training? Do CrossFit! Exercise in and of itself will lead to these other habits that require willpower naturally:
- Eating less junk food.
- Eating more healthy foods.
- Watching less television.
- Studying more.
- Saving more money.
- Procrastinating less.
- Less likely to be late to appointments. 
All of these bullet points need willpower, so the simple act of exercising, any kind of exercise, will improve these areas of your life!
#2 - Relax!
When people get stressed, they tend to go for unhealthy habits, like smoking or overeating. This is not the best way to cope.
Instead of falling for these traps, read, go for a walk, deep breathe (this really helps - think Meditation) or listen to a good comedy act and unwind. These habit-replacements for more unhealthy habits will not only be more effective, but lead to better overall health for you.
#3 - Self-Affirmation
Ever see that Saturday Night Live skit, “Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me.” This is kinda true actually.
By not saying negative and punishing statements like, “I can’t,” you can build your confidence to stick to many other goals.  The ability to build internal optimism will benefit you greatly.
#4 - Get More Sleep
Sleep deprivation has been linked to being overweight, angry and on the converse, “people who sleep between 6.5 hours and 7.5 hours a night, live the longest, are happier and most productive.”  So to have more willpower, get enough sleep, period! To measure sleep and sleep quality, here is a great app.
#5 - Treat Yourself
If you reach a short-term goal, like exercising daily for a month, reward yourself. Go clothes shopping, take a nature walk, or anything you want as a reward you only get for doing that.
By having a reward, you are more likely to muster up the willpower to stay on task and forge the willpower to develop healthy habits.
How do you strengthen your willpower? Comment below and the entire community can benefit from your advice plus you get rewards points for use on supplements, swag and even vacations at TigerFitness.com! Now get at it and be the best you ever!
2) Oaten M and Cheng K. "Longitudinal Gains in Self-regulation from Regular Physical Exercise. - PubMed - NCBI." National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17032494.
4) "How Much Sleep Do We Really Need to Work Productively?" Social, 8 Aug. 2012, blog.bufferapp.com/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need-to-work-productively.