Professional Feature: Willpower


About The Professional Feature 'Willpower'

The deadline for a difficult report is awfully close, but you first decide to get rid of your overdue administration, you fall out to your boss during a meeting because in your eyes he has been cutting a little thing for too long and you dive in the evening with friends go into the pub while you've a job interview the next morning. Recognizable? They are examples of willpower challenges. Willpower is the ability to control your attention, emotions and desires. Many people associate it with resisting temptations such as cookies or cigarettes, but willpower is also the ability to do what you've to do, even if you don't feel like it. So it's about being able to say 'no' when that is actually best, and 'yes' when you should say 'yes'. If you've willpower, you can place your behavior in a wider time frame and prevent yourself from giving in to temptations or postponing things that you should actually do. Even more than intelligence, willpower is important for success at work. Can you increase willpower and if so how?

Conflict between two conflicting goals

Willpower comes into play when there is a conflict between two conflicting goals. On the one hand you want something - a completed report, a good relationship with your boss, a good first impression during a job interview - but on the other hand you feel resistance. Everyone is struggling in one way or another with temptation, addiction, distraction and procrastination. What makes one person better able to cope with these situations than the other? Is it in the character? No, it's a widespread misunderstanding that willpower is anchored in character. Scientific research has shown that every person is naturally self-contained is capable of. It is a characteristic that our distant ancestors have developed to survive. It enabled them to fit into the group, work together, and maintain long-term relationships.

Willpower is not a deep moral quality, but primarily a process. A process that mainly has to do with orderliness and routine. People with strong wills are characterized by the strategic way in which they distribute their mental energy; little about daily small decisions and much about the higher goals they set for themselves. Those who know regularity don't always have to make choices again: shall I now drink coffee or first complete that report? Henry Morton Stanley, for example, explored himself every morning during his trip through the Congo. Even though his comrades died around him, he remained discipline attached to this ritual. With that, he imposed himself an iron regularity with which he 'saved' willpower for the things that he found really important: finding the disappeared British explorer David Livingstone.

How exactly willpower works

You have a limited amount of willpower. Exactly how large or small your inventory is varies from person to person and is influenced, among other things, by what you eat (healthy or junk food) to where you live exactly (area with much or little environmental pollution). When you resist a temptation, suppress an emotion or have to weigh conflicting goals, you appeal to your willpower. Whether you are trying to keep your patience, want to leave that cookie behind or you are content after a nasty remark from your boss, you always draw on the same source. In this way, you always 'get rid of' your willpower a little and then you've less at your disposal, even if the task afterwards has nothing to do with what you've used your willpower for before. Things that at first glance have nothing to do with each other, are invisibly connected. This also explains why it's very easy to sustain something at one moment and not be able to resist your impulses the next and why after a day at the office full of heavy decisions and subdued frustrations you shoot out of your slippers at home for something silly. You lose your self-control due to overload on your will. So don't make big decisions when you are in such a state, because your reasonableness and judgment have decreased.

What matters undermine willpower?

Lack of sleep, unhealthy and irregular eating, a sedentary life, stress, worries and pain (mental and physical) are also detrimental to your willpower. They affect your energy level and ensure that you are tempted earlier to give in to your impulses. Your will power is fed by glucose. If your blood sugar level is too low, then your brain opts for short-term thinking and impulsive behavior. So don't discuss problems with your boss just before lunch and when you give a presentation in the morning, make sure you've a full stomach.

You increase your willpower by:

- Enough exercise
- Enough night's rest
- Eat healthy and regularly
- Dealing better with stress
- Meditate

How do you improve your willpower?

You can compare willpower with a muscle. Just like a physical muscle, you can tire your willpower muscle - and even exhaust it in the event of excessive use - but also train it.

Self-knowledge is the first step to more willpower. We make many choices in one day and we do a lot of them on autopilot. That is fine because would we consciously start thinking about all our choices - am I now taking the blue or black pen, am I going to cross my left leg right now or the other way around? - we would no longer be able to get anything out of our hands and be exhausted by noon. But if you want to break a habit or learn a new one, then it's necessary to keep your attention and to be aware of the feelings, thoughts, wishes and impulses that have to do with that habit. Why do you lose your self-control? It's about the habit of consciously noticing what you are about to do and choosing the difficult one instead of the easy option. You learn to think your brain first and then only to do it.

If you want to learn or unlearn a certain habit, it's wise to first start with something that is easy for you. By starting with a small challenge and achieving success in it, your brain knows that it's also capable of taking on greater willpower challenges and you increase your confidence and perseverance. For example, start brushing your teeth with something as simple as your 'wrong' hand. In this way you warm up your 'willpower muscle' for a major challenge. Research shows that practicing a daily willpower challenge affects all kinds of other areas of your life. People smoke and drink less, keep their house clean, eat healthier and suffer less from procrastination.

And have you started your major willpower challenge, reward yourself for results achieved and keep practicing. All change lasts along the paths of gradualness, and the ease that you now experience is only temporary. Do not be too strict on yourself if it goes wrong. That way you avoid a sense of guilt and the risk that you will succumb to your challenge the next time.

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