I want to teach you how to improve willpower so that you can have some bonus power to help you reach goals for your life, but first, what actually is willpower? The big mistake most people make is thinking willpower is what they need in order to stick to a healthy way of eating, willpower is what’s going to help them to get through a diet, or willpower is what will help them give up sugar or whatever it is. Everyone tells you that if you fail at dieting or you fail at giving up sugar, or you fail at trying to eat healthy, that you just didn’t have enough willpower. This just isn’t true!
In this episode you will learn what willpower actually is, what depletes it, and 3 ways to improve it.
Listen to podcast here (or read down below)
In this episode, you’ll hear…
00:31 Mistakes most people make in thinking about willpower.
02:47 What willpower actually is.
03:07 How willpower is depleted.
04:24 Top 10 things that deplete willpower.
09:21 The effects of drained willpower.
10:11 The entanglement of habits and willpower.
11:14 What can recharge your willpower.
17:12 Where true power comes from.
Links mentioned in this episode:
“I can’t seem to make it a whole day without slipping up. I wish I had more willpower.”- Linda
A New Way of Understanding Willpower
I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to improve willpower because I hear women beating themselves up all the time about slipping up and wishing they had more willpower. I’m here to change your thinking about willpower for good!
The mistake most people make is thinking that willpower is what they need in order to stick to a healthy way of eating, willpower is what’s going to help them to get through a diet, or willpower is what will help them to give up sugar. (or whatever it is)
Everyone tells you that if you fail at dieting, giving up sugar, or eating healthy, you just don’t have enough willpower.
Then we believe it and we put it on repeat in our head, feeling like a failure each time we fail to reach our goals. It’s so easy to fall into this.
But let me ask you a question.
“Do you think that everyone you know who is healthy and fit, who appears to have an abundance of willpower has some magical willpower strength that you will never have?”
No and if you believe this, you can actually end up never getting healthy.
I want to help you to stop beating yourself up thinking you don’t have enough willpower.
I’m going to teach you what willpower actually is. And most importantly, I want to teach you how to increase your willpower so that you can have some bonus power to help you to reach those goals for your life.
What Willpower Is
I was inspired to teach on the topic of willpower by a member of my free Facebook group, Healthy Free Life Community.
In this Facebook group, filled with over 30,000 amazing women and some men, I post and encourage daily, the members share their wins, their struggles, their encouragements, and they pray. It’s an amazing group. If you’re interested in joining it, click here.
A dear member in the group, Linda, shared a struggle.
Her post said, “I can’t seem to make it a whole day without slipping up. I wish I had more willpower.”
Ugh. Can you relate? I can’t make it a whole day without slipping up. I wish I had more willpower. Listen, it happens and yes, it even happens to me.
So what is willpower exactly?
Think of willpower like a battery.
It’s not something that you have or you don’t have. It’s actually a battery and just like a real battery there are certain things that charge our willpower battery and there are certain things that drain our willpower battery.
Your willpower battery is charged and depleted by things that you are doing and experiencing in your life physically, mentally, and emotionally. There’s not one thing that drains it and one thing that charges it. There are multiple things that do both.
The Way Willpower Works
Willpower is cyclical. It ebbs and flows daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally.
Have you ever noticed that you wake up in the morning with more willpower to make a healthy choice? You eat a healthy breakfast, you may even do your exercises.
Yes! Today’s going to be great! And then your day happens to you.
- You have all these demands,
- your to-do list,
- your schedule,
- and all the things.
By the end of the day, you’re on the couch eating a bag of peanut M&Ms.
In addition to being drained daily, our battery can be drained by weekly. You’re superwoman on Monday and then by Thursday, you’re grabbing a Big Mac for lunch.
Our battery can also be drained by our month.
If you’re a woman who is still menstruating, then you’re going to have more willpower at the beginning of your cycle than at the end.
Finally, our battery can be drained by the seasons in life.
Top 10 Things That Drain Willpower
So let’s talk about the top 10 things that can drain your battery. These aren’t the only things, but these are definitely ones that we can be more aware of.
We are our own worst enemy army. Linda is in fact draining her willpower by beating herself up over the fact that she can’t make it through her day without slipping up. How ironic is that? It’s like a vicious cycle!
By restraining yourself from something like the cookies that you eat every afternoon, you are draining your willpower battery.
Self-editing can be a couple of things. First, it’s internal, like, “I better not say this” or “I better not say that.” Continually calculating our interactions with others or replaying past interactions in an attempt to reconcile a situation is very draining.
Self-editing is also an internal to-do list. It’s the internal chatter of what you need to do.
I feel like I am continually managing four lists in my head!
- I need to do this.
- And I have to do this.
- But I should do this.
- Oh gosh. I wish I could do that.
It can be so draining.
If you have continual stress in your life, you will never have a full battery. I don’t know about you, but I have constant stressors in my life. It’s part of this fallen world.
It’s not just the stress that you may think of, like the external situations in your life, but there are also internal stressors that drain your willpower. In fact, dieting is a stressor to your body. It’s stressful to do a diet and then also internally it’s stressful to your metabolism.
Eating unhealthy is also a huge stressor that drains. If you are overweight, that is a stressor to your body. It drains your willpower. Remember, our battery is comprised of what we do and experience emotionally, mentally, and physically. And we can experience stress in all of these areas.
Negative emotions drain our battery.
6. Thinking and learning.
Focusing and learning new ideas drains our batteries.
7. Low blood sugar.
This one is related to unhealthy eating. If we’re taking our blood sugar on a rollercoaster through our day, our battery will continue to be depleted as our day goes on.
8. Sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation is huge! We make completely different choices and have completely different days when we have enough sleep versus days when we haven’t gotten enough sleep.
I make great choices when I’ve had enough sleep, but get me after a really bad night’s sleep and I’m grumpy and will most definitely not get the same things accomplished as I do on my well-rested day.
9. Device time, whether it’s a computer, phone, or tablet.
If we use our devices in ways that are not filling our battery, then these can also drain our battery.
Television is one of those things that can drain our battery or it can actually charge our battery. We have to be intentional. It can drain our battery when we are choosing to use television to just completely gap out without any attention to anything else. That’s non-intentional TV watching.
TV can charge our batteries. For example, we have movie night every single Friday night and it’s one of my favorite ways to fill my willpower battery. I look forward to the break at the end of my work week. It’s an intentional time: we spend the evening as a family watching a new movie all snuggled on the couch. We love this time!
So basically, life itself drains our willpower battery.
Let me tell you what happens when your willpower battery is drained:
- Your brain switches on the reward and habit centers of the brain and switches off the motivation centers.
- You will seek pleasure and go back to old habits and you’ll have no motivation to do what you intended.
- You cannot expect yourself to want to do anything other than sit on the couch and eat a bag of peanut M&Ms.
This is a biological response to the lifestyle you are living.
There is nothing wrong with you.
When you are continuously living with a depleted willpower battery, your “slipping up at the end of the day” is inevitable.
(Side note: there are two other reasons you may be slipping up beyond a depleted willpower issue.)
One is a habit issue- Our brain is wired for habits and it works to complete the habit loop every time it is triggered to do so. I’ll talk about habits more in-depth in future issues.
Another reason you may be slipping up at the end of the day or the end of the week, giving into foods that you meant to resist, can also be a sign of too little calories during your day.
My husband, Chris, and I talk about this in episode 10, in our post The Top 9 Reasons Why Diets Fail. You cannot biologically resist your body’s biological response to not eating enough.
This leads to cravings and hunger, something that you will not be able to resist.
Okay! Side note is over.
What Improves Willpower
This is going to require some work on your part, mostly in the form of self-care.
If you’re anything like me, self-care is not something that comes naturally to you. I am a caretaker by nature.
Maybe you will recognize your own habits in my confession.
I will put:
- caring for others in front of myself.
- work in front of caring for me.
- myself and caring for myself on the back burner.
Whenever I get the chance, I will keep commitments to others and I will break promises to myself- time after time.
So, if my challenges sound familiar to you, then let’s link arms and work to learn to care for ourselves better. We cannot pour out to others from a place of lack.
We need to improve willpower with self-care because we can only pour out to others from a place of abundance.
Abundance is found in us when we are healthy and well cared for body, mind, and spirit.
No one’s going to take care of us, but us. So how do we do that?
How do we improve willpower by taking care of ourselves?
Well, instead of:
- self criticism,
- and continuously self-editing,
We need to learn to practice:
- self acceptance
- compassion for ourselves
- mothering ourselves
- positive emotions
If you have lived a lifetime in self-condemnation or negative emotions, then you may need some support to overcome these. This is where a great Christian counselor can help you to begin to unravel and rewire your brains so that you can create new pathways that lead to more love and peace.
1. Improve Willpower by Reducing Stress
Stress drains the willpower battery.
So how do we deal with stress so we can improve willpower and life in general?
It’s my belief stress is just like the serenity prayer, we have stress in our lives that we can do something about, we have stress in our lives that we can do nothing about, and we need to have the discernment to know the difference so that we can take action.
And again, we may need the support of a great counselor to help us to know the difference between the two and to help us to begin to find new ways to cope with and deal with the stressors in our life- especially the ones that we do have the capacity to change, or at least change responses.
But at the end of the day, I have kids and a husband, extended family, home responsibilities, bills to pay, and so many things to do. And while yes, I sometimes wish I could just go live in a bubble and avoid all the stress, this is not possible. But it doesn’t mean that we can’t do something about the stress that we do experience in daily life.
We can’t erase the stress, but we can minimize the effects on our body.
We can minimize the effects on our mind and we can minimize the effects on our emotions and ultimately recharge our willpower battery by doing something very important. And it’s called rest based activities.
2. Improve Stress with Rest-Based Activities
I will have a whole podcast or more dedicated to rest based living and how vitally important it is and how to create a lifestyle of rest.
Rest is so important.
That is, it is actually one of the seven habits of a healthy free life. We must develop the habit of rest in our life.
We need to rest during our day. We need to have periods of rest in our week. We need more rest in our life and intentional rest, rest that restores and recharges. So, let me give you a list of ideas of how we can begin to create rest in our lives.
- Deep, restorative, quality, quantity of sleep every single day is vitally important. This restores our battery. I believe more than anything else.
- But also naps.
- Hot baths and showers.
- How about some quiet, me-time?
- But also together time with loved ones. (As long as it’s not stressful) Togetherness can recharge our battery.
- Time with pets, cuddling and stroking. Our pets can charge our battery.
- Creative pursuits can charge our batteries. Maybe you like to knit or paint or scrapbook. Maybe there are activities that you have put down for the sake of raising children or caring for others or working. Maybe it’s time to pick some of those things back up.
- Or reading time.
- Listening to music
- Walking, especially in nature.
- Just sitting in nature. Being in nature is so charging to our battery.
- Looking at the beauty around you, seeking to find beauty, wherever you are.
- Simply being still every day, we need to incorporate rest and you can start small even just a 15 minute break in your day. You can do that.
So let me ask you, what will you do during your rest break today to improve your willpower?
Yes, the one you’re going to take today.
I’m going to take a break early this afternoon, and I’m going to make myself a cup of Jasmine green tea. Then I’ll sit on my porch, even if it’s just five, 10 minutes. I’ll take in the beauty of the mountains surrounding me and my cabin.
3. Improve Willpower with TRUE POWER
I can’t talk about willpower without remembering true power. You see, God can strengthen us, renew us, and restore us. Jesus tells us in Matthew 11: 28- 30,
“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
And when we do that, listen, we’re, we’re accessing God-power in that moment. And may I remind you of God’s power from Jeremiah 10: 12 -13,
“God made the earth by his power. He founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders the waters and the heavens roar, he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his store houses.”
God-power is True Power
The same power that raised Jesus from the grave is alive and is active in you. So don’t forget you can tap into God’s power every day, every moment. We cannot depend on our own willpower, but we can depend on God power to see the journey through.
Now let me leave you with this verse from John 16:33. Jesus has great promise to us.
“I have told you these things so that in me, you may have peace in this world. You will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world.”
So take heart, dear one.
Until next time. Bye for now.