Get More Willpower Comments

  • By Emily Co, POPSUGAR Smart Living
  • February 28, 2014

5. Be supportive of yourself, not critical.
There's nothing that drains willpower faster than guilt and shame. So don't try to incentivize yourself by beating yourself up over your failures. Focus on what you can do instead of what you should not do. For example, resolve to eat more healthy meals instead of restricting desserts. McGonigal says if you berate yourself, you could trigger the "what-the-hell" effect, which basically derails you from your goal after a mistake and makes you more susceptible to temptation.

6. Precommit.
Make it inconvenient to give into your temptation. It won't stop you, but it will make it harder to go against your goals. For example, schedule a session with a personal trainer, or bring a set amount of cash with you when you're on a budget, and leave your credit cards at home.

7. Associate with your future self.
We often put off tasks we don't want to do and tell ourselves that we'll get it done later. However, "later" seems to get postponed, to the point where it sometimes doesn't happen. This may be happen because you are disconnected with your future self. "Brain-imaging studies show that we even use different regions of the brain to think about our present selves and our future selves," writes the author. The brain has a habit of treating your future self like a stranger, which can affect your current efforts to reach long-term goals.

Think about it this way: you seem to assume that your future self will get everything done and is a superhuman who can do it all. You may be indulging in treats now, but you're letting your future self suffer the consequences. Don't treat your future self poorly; work to associate your current state to your future self. McGonigal says if you visualize your future, your brain will start to think more rationally about your current choices. Imagine yourself working out if your aim is to get fit. Another strategy that works is to write a letter or an email to your future self. Write about your hopes for the future, what you think you will be like, and what your future self will say about your current choices.

8. Don't fight your thoughts.
Do you ever notice that the more you force yourself to stop thinking about something, the more it comes up in your mind? This is called the ironic rebound. To prevent it from happening, don't try to suppress your thought when it comes up. And just because you're thinking it doesn't mean it's true. If a negative thought or craving comes into your mind, think to yourself, "Oh, there it goes again. Thoughts randomly come and go in our minds, and just thinking it doesn't make it true."

Accept the thought instead of trying to fight it. Remind yourself that thoughts and feelings may not be under your control, but you can choose your actions. The author suggests an exercise in which you hold the thought, breathe in deeply, visualize the thought as a cloud passing through your mind, and imagine it dissolve.

These willpower exercises are just the tip of the iceberg, so pick up the “Willpower Instinct” to learn more. Another great read for developing the ability to accomplish difficult goals is “The Power of Habit.”

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