In surveys, people list a lack of willpower as one of the top things holding them back. The right amount of willpower is all we need - too much willpower stresses out out, too little of willpower sabotages our career and life.
This is what Kelly McGonigal says in her popular book, 'The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.'
The author says that self control works like a muscle, which may get tired from use but become stronger with regular exercise.
The author makes a very important point that beating ourselves for 'not being up to the mark' doesn't help increase our self control, but having a bit of compassion for ourselves helps, a lot. We all are doing the best we can, this affirming statement boosts our self control .
1. The simplest way to increase our willpower: Do the little 'controlling' things, daily
Kelly says that even 5 minutes of exercise can boost our willpower. Or, just slowing down our breathing for just 1 minute. Our very act of controlling a body function for a brief while, helps.
2. Science says that increasing our 'heart rate variability' for a brief while quickly boosts our will power: Just slow down your breathing as much as possible (ideally 4 breaths / minute).
This is also why experts suggest exercise helps boost willpower. Exercise helps because heart variability shoots ups with fitness.
3. Hold out for a while (delay the gratification): Science also says that giving ourselves 'rewards' for small achievements is not a good way to boost our willpower. Instead, raise the stakes a little, by delaying the awards by 10 minutes and the also comparing two different rewards. In other words, the more time we give to consider the reward itself, helps boost our willpower.
Marshmallow experiment: Researchers left children alone in a room with a single marshmallow. They told the kids that if they didn’t eat the marshmallow while the researcher stepped out for 15 minutes, they would get a reward.
Result: Kids who held out for the full 15 minutes scored an average of 210 points higher on the SATs than kids who caved in during the first 30 seconds.
4. Dealing with temptations: This is related to the 'delaying rewards' idea mentioned above. Focus on the temptation, delay it, compare it with something, and it will soon go away. This is gold.
5. Start tracking: Try to track activities that relates to your main challenge. If you want to save money, track your spending habits. If you want to get up early, track your wake up time.
Once you start tracking, start to measure things. The more frequently and more carefully you measure, the better. How late did you wake up today? What about yesterday? And the day before that?
6. Raise your blood sugar: Before you get tired and your willpower sags, get some glucose in quickly. Sleep helps too.
7. One goal at a time: Trying to focus on completing too many goals increases the demands on your willpower.
8. Dealing with the 'Zeigarnik effect': Uncompleted tasks and unmet goals begin to get heavy soon, the mind finds itself dealing with one reminder after another. This is the Zeigarnik effect. To deal with it, experts suggest that if something takes less than two minutes to do, do it now instead of putting it on a list.
9. Think about concepts and theories: Experts says that 'higher level thinking' gives us more self-control, rather than 'lower-level thinking' (tiny details, minutiae...mistaking the trees for forest). Think about the 'greater good' when you find yourself lost in little things, and experts say you will be back to your controlling self. (But do not become a 'true believer', please Google this.)
10. Help the kids 'grow better': Experts say kids react well when our reprimands are brief, calm, and consistent. This way we can help them develop their self-control. This is very important. Research shows lack of adult supervision during our teenage years is one of the strongest predictors of criminal behavior, drug use, and so on.
Thank you for reading.
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