Using Willpower to Control the Mind

Willpower can make you a more successful student.  But, of course, that begs the question, “How much willpower do I possess at any given moment?  And how can I make it stronger?”

A Stanford University study by Veronika Job, Ph.D., and associates found that people who thought willpower was quickly depleted had less willpower.  On the other hand, people who believed willpower was more unlimited had significantly more of it.

I’m of the view that willpower has no upper limit.  After all, unlimited willpower is the means we can use to fully control our minds.  And I believe controlling the mind is vital for evolving as human beings.

With that said, here are tips on how to strengthen your willpower:

Build your willpower like a muscle.  The more you exercise your will, the more resilient it gets.  That means, to block an intrusive thought, a habit of speech, or a pattern of action, the more we exert willpower, the more powerful our resolve grows.

To exercise your willpower, try spontaneous acts.  For instance, you could walk backwards or write with your left hand if you’re right-handed.  But that’s silly.  Instead, try creating consistent positive habits like telling your spouse, every night before bed and first thing in the morning, that you love and appreciate him or her.  Yes, consistent positive habits are the best way to build your willpower.

And if willpower has no upper limit, imagine how powerful you’ll grow when you use it to control your thoughts, speech, and actions.  Nothing, not even stress, can then stop you from attaining your dreams.

Meditate to develop your willpower.  Meditation relaxes you and heightens your focus.  A stress-free mind cultivates the conditions for more incredible willpower.  So, breathe deeply for five minutes to regroup and resist whenever temptation arises.

Exercise to gain willpower.  When you search for images on willpower or motivation, you’ll often see pictures of people exercising.  Movement has the fantastic ability to get you healthy and grow your will.  Better still, the more consistently you exercise, the more you may grow to love exercise.  Exercise can become an addiction, where you just can’t get enough of it, which is testimony that willpower may indeed have no upper limit.

Block out the temptation.  This means avoiding or removing the temptation.  For example, if you tend to enjoy sugar and it’s impacting your health, remove all sugary foods from your household.  If you want to quit smoking and you’re on your fifth week of abstinence, don’t go to a lounge or spend time with a smoker.

Distracting yourself from temptation is another tool you can use.  For example, if you’ve been drinking a green tea latte every morning but it keeps you awake at night, think about your next workout instead of thinking about the latte.  Or, if you are tempted by a huge slice of chocolate cake, conjure up images of you on holiday in Thailand, indulging in fresh fruit and coconut chicken instead.

Find a substitute for the temptation. One way to control temptations is to find a “workaround,” which usually means doing the opposite.  But, of course, that means doing the positive opposite of a negative.  For instance, if you can’t help but watch sitcoms instead of studying, perhaps unsubscribe from cable TV.  Buy books related to your academic studies instead.

Keep your energy high.  That means getting enough sleep to restore your power and eating fruit to boost your fuel.  By keeping your energy high, you’ll have more of it to dedicate to controlling your mind.  Willpower takes energy, so fuel up wisely.

Have the goal in mind.  To exert willpower, set a goal.  For instance, you could say, “I wish to become the best female companion for my true love.” Better still, break that goal into steps.  For example, if you want to show your spouse genuine love and appreciation, then perhaps aim to make breakfasts for him.  Then go fetch his favorite latte at lunchtime.  Tell him you love him throughout the day.  Never argue or criticize.  Massage his aching back in the evening.  Foster nothing but loving thoughts and sweet words, prioritizing his needs over your own.

And remember, 100% effort is more manageable to exert than 99%.  So increasingly perfect control of temptations may just be the vehicle to realize that your willpower is unlimited.