What willpower means…

Starwars character using willpower
Image credited to Pixabay

What is willpower? It’s the ability to drag myself out of bed early to do some exercise before work.  Or to walk past the chocolates that are lying out at the nurses station on my ward.  Sometimes I have the mental energy and sometimes I haven’t.

Depressingly it seems that some people do have better natural self-control than others.

Why it is not enough

Studies have suggested that willpower reduces with repeated use over the course of a day.  So for example if you have been struggling to stay patient with your kids all day when it’s raining, you’re stuck inside waiting for the washing-machine repair man and they are complaining of being bored every 20 seconds, then by evening you may find it harder to resist the chocolate in the cupboard.

Another factor that can reduce your willpower is alcohol consumption. You may relate to this if you have stopped at a takeaway on the way home from a night out, even though you’ve had a full dinner a few hours earlier.

Can willpower be trained?

It’s not all bad news however.  If you successfully maintain your self-control in relation to a particular issue long enough for it to become a habit, your brain needs less and less willpower and it becomes easier.  There are lots of techniques you can use to help create habits, although that’s a whole blog post in itself.

Practicing using your willpower also seems to improve it, like building up a muscle.

Being positive or doing something because you want to rather than because someone else wants you to do it seems to help improve your willpower.  It’s useful to spend a bit of time thinking and making a list of the reasons that are motivating you to make a change. You can then think through or look at your list – or even say it aloud to yourself if you are struggling.

If you want to read about it in a bit more depth have a look at this article:

And have a look at some of our related articles:

©Ayearofsmallchanges 2018


    2 replies to "What is willpower?"

    • Neil Cameron

      I find the evening much harder to maintain a diet than earlier in the day. Does tiredness affect your willpower?

      • isabelhowat

        Yes definitely – willpower needs energy! Plus if you’ve already used your willpower lots of times earlier in the day it will be running out. Evenings are the hardest time for lots of people. Thinking about ways to avoid relying on willpower is a good idea – like staying out of the kitchen after dinner, avoiding buying in things you struggle with etc.

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