The majority of complicated and sophisticated cases worked by the FBI take several months, if not years, to solve. It can take willpower to doggedly continue to pursue new leads and maintain the hope of bringing the case to a conclusion.
Whether I was sitting across from parents whose child had been abducted, elderly people who had been swindled out of their life savings, or a young executive coming to grips with the fact that her company was the victim of corporate espionage, I felt the full heft of responsibility as the lead investigator.
I was committed to these people, and I promised that I would do everything in my power to bring justice in each of their situations. The idea that I might fail them was scary.
You do not tell the parents of a missing child that the case is “too hard,” give up, and walk away. No—this is when you realize how willpower plays such a crucial role in mental toughness.
There are times when you simply must keep moving forward—family, career, and life depend upon it. Surrender is not an option.
Every day we are tempted to surrender and quit. It might be a cookie that is tempting us to stray from a diet, a warm bed in which to sleep late and miss work, or the feel of cool water on a beach instead of spending time strategizing our next career move—we all need willpower to decide the direction in which we will take our life.
Willpower is the ability to resist impulses with discipline and self-control. Researchers are discovering that willpower is a mental muscle, and certain physical and mental habits can weaken or strengthen our self-control.
Here are 7 surprising ways you can increase your willpower:
1. Don’t Leave Home Without Your “Why”
To activate your willpower, you must remind yourself why something is important to you. If you are engaged in meaningless tasks or jobs, willpower will not save you.
When you have a purpose and are pursuing a goal that has meaning and value for you, your willpower can be tapped into because you are committed to something important to you.
2. Keep Front Sights On Your Goal, Not Your Fear
When you focus on the goal, your concentration is channeled into a productive cycle of thinking. Instead of worrying, or becoming fearful, focus on planning how you will move toward your goal and overcome your obstacle.
Once you get your mind straight, and focused on your performance, options and plans of action become clearer.
3. Wrap Your Behavior Around Your Goal
It is easier to muster the shot of energy you need if you define your goals as specific behavior. For example: if I my goal was pushups, I should specify a number, like “35 good pushups” rather than just “do more of them.” If it’s a behavioral choice, the goal becomes a natural outgrowth.
Nordstrom is a great example of how a company can define its goal in terms of behavior: superior customer service. Sales and customer loyalty are the by-products of Nordstrom’s behavior.
4. Good Habits Are The Magic Bullet
Charles Duhigg explains in his book, “ The Power of Habit ,” that habits cannot be eradicated; instead, they must be replaced. Habits are most malleable when we keep the same cue and the same reward.
If you want to change a habit, you must find an alternative routine. You may need to change your environment to make sure what you should do is easy and what you shouldn’t do is hard.
For example, perhaps you want to accomplish more first thing in the morning—study your habits to determine why you tend to feel groggy when you wake up. You may need to go to bed earlier, stop taking sleeping pills, or avoid alcohol in the evening.
For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. While belief is essential, it often only emerges with the help of a group—even a group of two people is large enough to change habits.
The best way to accomplish any change is by having a supportive group of friends around you.
5. Do The Hardest Thing First
Once you’ve set your goal, it must become a priority. Wishing for something to happen won’t make it happen. Reorganize your day so that you have time to make your goal a reality.
You have the greatest amount of mental energy in the morning. The National Academy of Sciences reports that a survey of parole board judges determined that the judges were most likely to give a favorable ruling earlier in the morning. The odds of a favorable ruling plummeted right before lunch.
6. Master Your Mindset
In the old days it was believed that willpower was a limited resource, or that it could be jumpstarted with a sugary drink. Failure of willpower over bulging waistlines and dead-end careers could be blamed on our biological limits.
This myth has been debunked by newer research. According to a study conducted by The National Academy of Sciences , willpower can indeed be quite limited — but only if you believe it is!
When people believe that willpower is fixed and limited, their willpower is easily depleted. But when people believe that willpower is self-renewing — that when you work hard, you’re energized to work more; that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one — then people successfully exert more willpower.
It turns out that willpower is in your head.
7. Be The Person Too Stupid To Quit
There is a reason we admire people who have achieved long, happy marriages and overcome difficulties in life. Those individuals remain persistent even when it doesn’t appear that success is guaranteed.
There is value in delayed gratification—some things are worth holding on to; the key is knowing which ones.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent—Calvin Coolidge
How do you increase your willpower?