Here are fifteen research-based secrets to building willpower compiled by Eric Barker (Barking Up the Wrong Tree). They are all so good that I couldn't decide which ones to highlight. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Enjoy!
- Need willpower right now? Clench your fists, cross your arms, tense your muscles, and stand up straight. (Improving your posture canimprove your self control.)
- Mental control is important too. A wandering mind is not a happy mind. Meditation can improve this. Just making too many decisions can leave you depleted and burned out. To reduce this, build good habits andautomate behavior as much as possible.
- Want to eat less at a meal? Wear a tight shirt. Context is huge. Whetherthe friends eating with you are heavy, whether your waitress is heavy and how close food is to you all make a difference in how much you eat. On the other hand, going hungry will also reduce self-control because a lot of willpower is about sugar. Your mind plays all kinds of tricks on you when it comes to food. Skipping breakfast might lead to murder.
- All this willpower stuff feeling difficult? Lean back. Increasing willpower can be as easy as pretending you're left-handed. Merepostponement can be the key to resisting temptation. Writing things down makes you more likely to do them.
- When we use bigger plates we almost inevitably eat more. When the color of the food contrasts with the color of the plate we almost always eat less. A mirror in the kitchen can help you eat less. The wider a variety of foods at a meal, the more we eat. Dining with friends makes you eat twice as much at restaurants.
- If you don't want to eat that whole bag of chips or spend all that money,break the amount up into a number of smaller packages.
- Just a little bit of practice every day can increase your willpower. Saying "I'll never do that again" makes you even more likely to do that again.Just monitoring your behavior can improve it. Penalizing yourself for bad behavior works. Think about the pride you'll feel in conquering desire, not the shame that follows failure.
- Religion increases self-control but reduces ambition. Thinking about money can immediately increase self-control. Keep a reward in mind to resist temptation and stick to your goals.
- "Precommitment devices" are very powerful. So give a friend $500 and tell them to donate it to the Nazi party if you don't follow through with your goals.
- Form "if-then" plans. Decide ahead of time how you will respond when willpower is taxed and you'll be much more likely to default to that.
- We can lose control and overindulge when we think a good mood is fleeting or a bad mood will not go away. By focusing on why good feelings will last or why bad feelings will pass we can prevent poor decisions.
- "Consumers who respond to temptation with the words "I don't" versus "I can't" are more able to resist." There are many good tricks to stop you from overspending while shopping.
- Know the secrets to achieving your goals, the things that really motivate us, and how to improve yourself. Know the three techniques the Army uses to instill mental toughness as well as the four methods the government used to increase Navy SEAL passing rates.
- Self-discipline is better than IQ at determining who will be successful.Exercising self-control in one area of life tends to improve all areas of life. Focus on greater self-compassion, not greater self-control to increase willpower. Friends that support you can be the key to radically changing your life. There are tricks to breaking bad habits forever.
- Don't get cocky. Thinking you have great self-control leads to failure. Sometimes little temptations are harder to resist than bigger ones. (Email can be harder to resist than alcohol or cigarettes.)
- Baumeister, R. F., & Tierney, J. (2011). Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength. New York: Penguin Press.
- Duhigg, C. (2012). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. New York: Random House.
- McGonigal, K. (2012). The willpower instinct: How self-control works, why it matters, and what you can do to get more of it. New York: Avery.