Top 10 Will-Power Strategies

Sunday, 15 June 2014 0 comments

Will-Power is vital to our success. People who have good will power tend to be both more popular and more successful in many areas of life. Those with low will power, though, are at risk of overeating, addictions and underachievement.

Will power

Will power can be built up, like a muscle. But you need to do the right types of mental exercises. So, here are ten techniques to boost your will power that are based on psychological research.

1. Respect low ego

Research has found that will power is a limited resource. Exercising it has clear physiological effects, like lower glucose levels.

At any one time we only have so much will power in the tank. When you’ve been tightly controlling yourself, the tank is low and you become more likely to give in to temptation. Psychologists call this ‘ego-depletion’.

2. Pre-commit

Make the decision before you’re in the tempting situation. Pre-committing yourself to difficult goals can lead to increased performance. In one study by Ariely and Wertenbroch (2002) students who imposed strict deadlines on themselves performed better than those who didn’t.

3. Use rewards

Rewards can really work to help strengthen will power. A study found that participants were better able to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains when they had a self-imposed reward in mind. So setting ourselves rewards does work, even when it’s self-imposed.

4. …and penalties

Just like the carrot, the stick also works. Not only should we promise ourselves a reward for good behaviour, we should also give ourselves a penalty for bad behaviour.

When Trope and Fishbach (2000) tested self-imposed penalties experimentally, they found the threat of punishment encouraged people to act in service of their long-term goals.

5. Fight the unconscious

Part of the reason we’re easily led into temptation is that our unconscious is always ready to undermine our best intentions.

Study found that participants were easily tempted outside their conscious awareness by the mere suggestions of temptation. On the other hand, the same was also true of goals. When goals were unconsciously triggered, participants turned towards their higher-order goals.

6. Adjust expectations

Even if it doesn’t come naturally, try to be optimistic about your ability to avoid temptations.

Studies like Zhang and Fishbach suggest that being optimistic about avoiding temptation and reaching goals can be beneficial. Participants who were optimistic stuck at their task longer than those who had been asked to make accurate predictions about reaching a goal.

7. Adjust values

Just as you can try to think more optimistically, you can also change how you value both goals and temptations. Research suggests that devaluing temptations and increasing the value of goals increases performance.

When we value our goal more we automatically orient ourselves towards it. In the same way devaluing temptations helps us automatically avoid them.

8. Use your heart

The heart often rules the head, so use your emotions to increase will power.

You can increase the pull towards your goal in the same way: think about the positive emotional aspects of achieving it; say, the pride, or excitement.

9. Self-affirmation

Sometimes exercising will power means avoiding a bad habit. One way of doing this is by using self-affirmations. This means reaffirming the core things you believe in. This could be family, creativity or anything really, as long as it’s a core belief of yours.

10. Think abstract

Part of the reason self-affirmations work is that they make us think in the abstract. And abstract thinking has been shown to boost will power.
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