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Grow your willpower

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Grow your willpower

Scott Miker

Having the willpower to resist temptation is something that can help you reach your goals and become more successful and happy. Being able to put off instant gratification to gain more in the future is a tried and true strategy for improvement.

Call it self-control or self-discipline, the ability to use willpower to will you to do the right thing provides incredible rewards. Not having enough creates some of the most common struggles for people everywhere.

In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, the authors state, “He [Baumeister] and colleagues around the world have found that improving willpower is the surest way to a better life.”

They go on to say, “They’ve come to realize that most major problems, personal and social, center on failure of self-control.”

Most of us can relate to this. Most of the areas in which we struggle are related to temptations. We want to lose weight and eat healthier but can’t seem to resist the chocolate or fast food. We want to quit smoking but the cravings cause us to reach for a smoke as soon as the urge arises. We want to feel more rested but instead of sleeping we get hooked on a new TV show.

Because willpower tends to come into play whenever we try to resist temptation, we should realize that a little strategy might help us achieve our goals.

Instead of going with friends to a bar but trying hard to avoid drinking, we could instead find an activity that doesn’t include alcohol. If we want to avoid grabbing fast food for lunch, making lunch ahead of time can help us avoid the temptation by already having the meal ready.

There is a saying that 100% is a breeze and 99% is a bitch. The idea is that if we are 99% committed we will allow temptation in our lives and expect our willpower to be the factor that keeps us on track. But if we are 100% committed, then we won’t even allow temptations to come near us, knowing that we will never give in.

If someone wants to stay faithful to their spouse, flirting with their coworker is probably creating more temptation then if they avoided that behavior. If they are 100% committed, they don’t even put themselves in those types of situations.

It is similar to going on a diet but allowing yourself to be around all the foods you are trying to avoid. If you are 100% committed you will do everything possible to not be around those temptations. If you are 99% committed you will be around those temptations and hope your willpower is enough to keep you on track.

Willpower is important for us to delay gratification and reach our goals. Instead of hoping willpower shows up at the right moments, you can design the systems in your life to help you avoid the temptations whenever possible. This way your willpower will be charged and ready to go when you truly need it.

One of the greatest ways to grow your willpower is to realize its limitations and then design the systems in your life to address those limitations. Using habit you can develop a routine that follows the pattern you design. This will help you avoid becoming tempted by anything that might pop up and cause us to stray.

Willpower is available to all of us. When we see people with large amounts of willpower we will also see structures in their life that help them. They commit 100% instead of 99%. They plan and strategize for their willpower limitations. And they use systems and habits to build structures that will allow them to use their willpower in the right ways and not overexert it.