Boost your willpower
5 Foundational Ideas
- Genius is less about genetics and more about practice.
- Progress is built around discomfort – you must get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- You have a responsibility to be great – you have an obligation to yourself, to your family, and to the world to invest in yourself in order to become the best person you can be, and to express the gifts and talents you were born with.
- The goal is the process – don’t get too hung up on achieving your goals; the real value of reaching for your goals is who you become in the process.
- You succeed through small, daily improvements over time –tiny wins lead to massive success.
Key insights on willpower (based on science):
1. Willpower is like a muscle, which means that you can strengthen and build it. It’s not something that you either have or you don’t. It lives in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. As you strengthen your willpower, the gray matter and the neural connections in the prefrontal cortex start to grow. This change in the brain, which is an example of neuroplasticity, leads to greater self-control and willpower. You want to start thinking about training your willpower.
2. The more choices you make, the less willpower you will have. Roy Baumeister—one of the world’s foremost experts on willpower–calls this ego depletion. When you wake up in the morning you have a full well of willpower. As you go through your day you’re making choices; in order to make a choice you have to exert willpower. That is, with each choice you make you use up some of your finite supply of willpower. By nighttime you start suffering from ego depletion. The more choices you make throughout the day, the less willpower you’ll have at the end of the day. The takeaway from this is to structure your life in a way that allows you to make as few choices as possible, so that you don’t use up your willpower on mundane decisions.
3. Between stimulus and response there’s a 2.5 second window of opportunity. Instead of making decisions on autopilot—most of us aren’t even aware of most of the choices we’re making–, you have to be aware of that window of opportunity. When a temptation presents itself—to hit the snooze button, eat the chocolate cake, become distracted by social media, and so on—you have 2.5 seconds to decide to make a better choice. Sharma refers to the 2.5 second window of opportunity as the growth point. And the more use you make of those 2.5 seconds to make the right choices, the more you exercise and develop your willpower muscles.
Three Miracle Drugs Of Willpower
1. Meditation – neuroscientists have conducted studies that show that people who meditate have more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex. And as your prefrontal cortex grows, your willpower increases.
2. Exercise – John Ratey, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and author of “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and The Brain” refers to exercise as Miracle Grow for the brain. Just 15 minutes on a treadmill, every day, will allow you to overcome temptation and stick to your plan.
3. Sleep – When you don’t get enough sleep the prefrontal cortex develops “mild prefrontal dysfunction”. That’s why when you’re tired you usually don’t make the best choices.
Tactics For Increasing Your Willpower
1. Rest – Because rest is so important to willpower, we should build rest into our lives. Do something called ritualized refueling. That is, avoid ego depletion by building rest into your day. Work in 90 minute increments. Then, take 10 minutes to rest. Have one day a week that’s just for rest and recovery. In addition, every 6 weeks take a week off, or at least a weekend.
2. Exercise – Every day you want to do some sort of movement. Use the first twenty minutes of your day to exercise.
3. The Vocabulary of “Can” – your words are powerful. You will not create epic results if you say “I can’t” all the time. Start using the vocabulary of “I can” and “I will”. Rewire your mindset with affirmations. “I am a disciplined person”. “I have a lot of willpower.” Repeat these things every day so that you start reprogramming your self-identity and your self-conscious.
4. Deliberate Minimalism – What you don’t do is as important as what you do. Become a master of the diplomatic “no” so that
you don’t deplete your willpower. Build a life of simplicity to avoid ego depletion.
5. Elevate Your Associations – We behave like the people we spend most of our time with. The science behind this is “mirror neurons” and “emotional contagion”.
6. Mess Free Environment – Studies show that people in messy environments have less willpower than people who are in a clean and organized environment. Mess creates stress, and it lessens your willpower.