11 steps to developthe willpower

11.06.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

What does make a person successful one? What qualities of personality can be considered the key to well-being — success at work, happy family life, and confidence in the future? According to psychologists, one of these “keys” is willpower. Ways of developing self-control have already been studied and applied by many people in practice. Lack of willpower is not a sentence. The willpower can be strengthened. In the article, we will understand how to become decisive and confident, disciplined and restrained.


How do willpower and discipline help in life?

Willpower is one of the most important personal qualities, which helps him/her to achieve tremendous results in all social spheres of life. [1]

The willpower is inherently the ability to surmount difficulties and achieve your goals. It is this quality that determines success in getting results from a particular activity. With advanced self-control, it is much easier for a person to part with acquired bad habits, starting with smoking and ending with overeating. The person stays calm and cool, keeps its temper, and easily copes with the acute desire to do what is best not to do at all. A person with an iron will is concentrated, organized, and knows exactly how to set a goal and achieve it.

By improving willpower, a person develops:

  • determination,
  • commitment,
  • insistence,
  • courage, and
  • moderation.

A person lacking willpower is a dependent person.

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“I’m 25 years old, but I already feel “broken” like I’m an old man. I grew up not in the most prosperous environment – my father drank, my mother worked all the time, and I had school problems. Everyone around me was constantly telling me that I am a good-for-nothing person. Even having grown up and moved away from my parents, the idea that I am a loser and a weakling does not leave me. I can’t get rid of it. Whatever I plan, I’m afraid to start and take the first step, it seems that my train has left the station. It’s very disturbing at work. Perhaps that’s why I don’t have a career, even though I’ve been with the company for many years. I’m afraid of dating with girls. Of course, I’m still single. I want to change my life, but I can’t do anything — I’m going into some stupor. I tried to start simple — at least quit smoking. But no, I can’t stand it for more than a couple of weeks without cigarettes. I know I need to develop willpower, but I don’t know how to do it.”

– Evgeniy, 25

A man with weak willpower risks becoming an eternal slave to his/her desires and habits. Led by blind instincts, sooner or later he completely loses control of his life.

It seems that there is nothing wrong with living easily — without self-control and discipline. But over time it becomes a habit, numerous “indulgences” prevent the development and achievement of the goals. Here’s a simple example. At first, a person simply allows himself to sleep a little longer in the morning, and then, when the willpower stops “working”, problems with constant delays to work begin.

Weak-willed man:

  • amenable to manipulation of surrounding people,
  • is at the mercy of bad habits,
  • undetermined,
  • disorganized,
  • dependent,
  • lazy, and
  • prone to depression.

One of the characteristics of powerless people is the awareness of the problem. Yes, they know that the lack of self-control complicates life, but they do nothing to correct the situation. They may have a keen desire to change something, but the “deficiency” of the will prevents them from saying a clear “no” to their desires and to start acting boldly.

Studies show that the vast majority of personal and social problems arise precisely against the background of undeveloped self-control. Psychologists cite the following examples of consequences — a propensity for excessive spending and bank loans, impulsive violence, alcohol, and drug abuse, and craving for unhealthy diets. [2]

Is it possible to develop willpower and self-discipline?

to develop willpower and self-discipline

A person can be weak-willed due to the innate features of higher nervous function. For example, melancholic and sanguine persons get started for a long time before getting down to business and are less disciplined. But in general, willpower is not an innate personality quality or a superpower that is “triggered” in extreme conditions. It can and should be developed.

Just as we pump our muscles at the gym, we can develop endurance and self-control. The main thing is to aim for the result, not to retreat and constantly work on yourself. In the absence of regular mental and emotional stress, willpower, like muscles, atrophies and becomes weak.

Why does a person indulge in weaknesses?

person indulge in weaknesses

Not all people have willpower at the “highest level.” One easily keeps his desires under control. The other can not resist temptations, which does not allow to develop, and sometimes greatly complicate life. It is quite possible to achieve a positive result in strengthening the will. First, you need to understand the causes that can cause weak will.

Why is it difficult for a person to resist numerous temptations and become decisive in achieving goals? Psychologists highlight several main reasons.

1. The desire to yield to temptation is the body’s natural response

Human behavior is caused by millions of years of evolution. This is how our body works: delicious food should be eaten, or drought may start tomorrow and there will be no harvest; it is necessary to mate with a beautiful female, otherwise the competitors will get ahead; to become a leader it is better to bite the weakest in the streak.

In today’s society, the body’s automatic response to temptation leads to problems. For a normal life in society, a person needs to restrain himself in many ways and control his desires. It is necessary to “force” yourself to get up early at work every day, to have a minimum livelihood, to control your diet, not to be obese, to be restrained in statements and actions. All of this requires willpower.

Even the simplest tasks requiring self-control are hard for many people. There are a lot of such examples — breakdowns of diets, futile attempts to quit smoking, unwillingness to do one or another job, and spontaneous purchases. [3]

2. Impulsiveness

According to psychologists, impulsivity is the most important behavioral feature that increases the likelihood of problems with self-control. This is a person’s predisposition to rapid, unplanned reactions to external or internal stimuli without taking into account possible negative consequences.

An impulsive person first reacts out of rage and then thinks later. It is constantly at the mercy of its emotions and desires.

Of course, every person from time to time succumbs to momentary temptations. But some do so more often, jeopardizing any undertakings. In this case, we can talk about impulsiveness as a significant character trait, and, accordingly, serious problems with self-control. [3]

3. Compulsive thoughts

Scientists have conducted many experiments to understand whether obsessive thoughts help to achieve the goals. It turned out that this is not the case. To some extent, positive ideas about the object of desire motivate great achievements and train willpower. When a person thinks only about a specific goal, forgetting literally about everything, it becomes depressed. Any failure will be perceived as a complete collapse of hope. [3]

Here is a simple example. A person trying to lose weight constantly thinks “I need to get in shape by summer”. Excellent motivation for revising the menu and buying a gym membership. When a person thinks only about its goal and about food that he cannot eat, this is a great test for willpower. This does not temper, but lowers self-esteem – the diet breakdown is just a stone’s throw.

4. Emotions

Emotions sometimes overwhelm so much that even the “steel” will is not able to stop the actions that the person is not going to perform.

In the scientific community, there is a hypothesis that fiercely struggling with natural emotions such as “I can’t cry, I’m strong”; “I need to smile, I’m polite”, the person is likely to do the opposite. It does not temper willpower but destroys it. [3]

How to cope with procrastination?

“I have been concerned about the problem for several years: I cannot live a full life because of strong procrastination. Time after time everything I love is crumbled to dust. Lately, I’ve been afraid of losing the little I have.

I am acutely disgusted with the word “need.” No matter how loved the activity is, when it becomes mandatory, I can’t complete the task. It’s like I’m paralyzed. I was never able to finish my studies at a prestigious university since I was in a depression from endless sessions and practices. I can’t hold on to any job for more than six months – I don’t like the big rush and the challenges that management constantly throws up. I tried to do what I dreamed of as a child, but even then my plans were broken by procrastination. I can’t maintain my health with sports – I’ve started going to fitness many times, but every time I quit, attending only a couple of workouts.

Now I have nothing that would give me an incentive to achieve my goals. Lack of willpower is my eternal companion. I don’t know what that’s about. Is it a fear of losing, or vice versa, of winning? By all means I strive to avoid reality and close myself to everything. I try to be at that minimum level of comfort, which allows me to live and not be obliged to anything and anyone. I don’t know how to become purposeful and at least achieve something in this life.”

– Irina, 30

Remember, how often do you find a lot of other activities before the handover of an important project at work or before going to the dentist, just not to start the main task? This is procrastination.

Procrastination in psychology is a tendency to constantly postpone even important and urgent cases, leading to life’s problems and painful psychological effects. At its core, procrastination is complete paralysis of will, which does not allow you to enjoy life and achieve your goals. [4]

People prone to procrastination are often called lazy. However, it’s not that. It is very easy to distinguish procrastination from laziness. A lazy person is not bothered by things that have not been fulfilled according to the plan, while in procrastination guilty feelings and dissatisfaction with themselves rule the ball.

Psychologists highlight several main reasons why a person procrastinates:

  • Lack of interest in a particular case;
  • Weak motivation to do something;
  • Uncertainty of the ultimate goal;
  • overwork and moral exhaustion;
  • bad experience from the past that inspires doubt;
  • fear of poor appreciation and criticism for the work done;
  • fear of responsibility for the completed work;
  • the habit of doing any thing at the last moment. [4]

When you struggle with procrastination, you strengthen your willpower. So, how to develop self-control by bracing one’s energies and acting? According to psychologists, the simplest methods of working on yourself can have a positive effect.

1. Keep a to-do list

A clear current affairs plan will save you from procrastination. Just write in your notebook what exactly should be executed by the end of the day. The most difficult thing is to follow the plan clearly without delaying the deadline.

2. Do an unpleasant thing right away

Doing an unpleasant thing right away it’s like jumping into the cold water without hesitation You come to the shore several times, but then doubt and retreat again. It is better to change behavior habits, activate willpower and immediately perform an unpleasant task. It turns out that your to-do list will be one point shorter.

3. Find a “companion”

Scientists claim that a person being shoulder to shoulder with someone he trusts does, even unpleasant things more willingly. Therefore, if there is such an opportunity, do not perform the task alone. The presence of a “companion” gives a boost to willpower allowing you to quickly cope with the case. [4]

4. Procrastinate according to plan

Not everyone accepts strict bans. You can try to go down the path of least resistance – not to forbid yourself to procrastinate, and to engage in “doing nothing” strictly on schedule. Include in the to-do list some free time between important tasks. This way you will not be bind by strict limits. Usefully procrastinate — actively relax, and get ready for upcoming affairs.

This is a success because it is not procrastination that will control you, but you will manage it.

5. Set a deadline in days, not weeks

Scientists, having conducted studies, found that people who need to complete the task in 3 weeks, more often break the deadline than those who know that they have 21 days. A person on a subconscious level better feels the connection with the future, when time is measured by days, rather than weeks, months, and years. Accordingly, he undertakes a task faster. [4]

Do the same way. Writing down long-term plans, indicate a deadline in days.

6. Enjoy doing unpleasant things

For those who are familiar with procrastination, it is important to learn to enjoy the completed things. This is especially true of the most unpleasant tasks. Forced to do what you’ve been putting off for a month? Be sure to be happy for your achievements, and even better — reward yourself with a small present (walking, going to the cinema, bath with foam, etc.).

11 steps to develop the willpower

11 steps to develop the willpower

The development of willpower is a systematic work on oneself, a struggle against one’s fears and complexes. Often the process is delayed because it is impossible to improve one’s life overnight, solve personal problems and change behavior habits.

If you don’t know how to achieve your goals correctly? You can start with the simplest techniques recommended by psychologists.

1. Don’t push the things to the side

If there is no objective reason not to do what you have planned for today, do it. Don’t let procrastination win over yourself. Learn to step over your own “I don’t want” and “not now.” That’s how you develop a strong-willed muscle.

When the tasks are completed on time, life becomes much more comfortable — there is no heavy burden of responsibility and self-flagellation.

2. Watch yourself

Try observing yourself for a week. What you spend time on, whether you have time to perform current tasks, what external factors and bad habits distract you from the business. It is better to write down all the data in a notebook along the way.

Self-knowledge will help to make a competent daily routine in the future and identify “problem places” in your schedule that prevent you from regaining temper. This makes it easier to define one what time of day it is easier for you to perform certain tasks when you need to rest.

3. Clear daily routine

Discipline is the best friend of the willpower. You can start small — plan a clear daily routine, which will help to organize life and will not allow you to move away from the goals.

With the daily routine, it is much easier to develop endurance and self-control. You will start training willpower in the morning — what is the incredible effort that you will have to make to get up a little earlier and actively begin to solve the planned tasks. The main thing is to strictly follow the plan. Let the day be as productive as possible.

The regime of the day with optimal physical and emotional loads not only trains the will but also is useful for health.

4. Form good habits

You have probably noticed how quickly bad habits penetrate our lives, enslaving the will and not rushing back. But the same thing happens with useful habits. Develop them and show the resilience of your character.

Decided to run in the morning? Include sports activities in the daily routine and start. You will not notice how jogging will become the most useful habit — you will no longer have to force yourself to get out of bed and put on sneakers. This simple technique helps you gain really valuable skills.

5. Give yourself promises and keep them

The word “have to” causes stupor and complete reluctance to take up the case? Then it is worth replacing it with the phrase “I give my word.” Try to promise yourself that you will do a specific task. Since a promise is a matter of honor, you will have to get down to business. The method will help to maintain self-discipline and learn self-control.

6. Control stress

Stress is useful in many ways. For some people in a stressful situation, it is much easier to regain temper and finally perform the current task. But if you always achieve your goals in “stress mode,” physical and emotional overexertion is just around the corner.

Learn to deal with stress and properly relax. This improves health and helps to develop the willpower.

It is better to replace the rest on the couch in front of the TV with more productive activities. Walk more, communicate with friends, read, and find a pleasant hobby.

7. Take a simple +1 rule

Psychologists advise using a simple +1 technique in the development of will and discipline. Its essence is this: by doing the job, try to work a little more before you relax. Gradually, you can increase the load, which will help to make the day more productive and feel self-confident.

The +1 rule works in all areas of life, especially when doing sports when a person tries to lose weight with all its strength. Have you pressed off the floor 20 times? Try to train the will and push up a couple more times, even if it is difficult. Now you can be considered to have successfully overcome your fatigue and strengthened your willpower. Continuing in the same vein, you will work more productively on yourself.

8. Replace global goals with more tangible tasks

The willpower has no fast trump cards – significant results of its development can be seen only after a while. For example, giving up harmful food, you would notice that you have lost weight only after a couple of weeks. Not seeing a positive result, many people give up without even going halfway.

It’s better not to set global goals that you have a long way to go. Divide them into more tangible subtasks. Did you decide to lose weight? First, plan to lose one kilogram, then — another, etc. Having achieved a certain success because the goal is quite real, you will feel confident and strengthen your willpower.

9. Don’t forget the motives

Faced with obstacles on the way to achieving the goal, which completely discourage the desire to move on, do not forget about the motives. Find what will be the driving force for you to succeed.

When the willpower is running out, think about what exactly you will win, succeeding in the business. Happiness, freedom, financial wealth, success? Maybe your action will make another person’s life better?

10. Avoid temptations

Temptations sometimes reduce any effort to nothing. Be stronger and try to protect yourself from the negative impact of external conditions in advance. The absence of temptations makes your will stronger. Over time, it will be much easier to achieve the goal without reacting to “stimuli.”

Can’t work productively because you’re constantly distracted by social media? Remove the “unnecessary” temptations by installing special programs on your computer that disable access to certain sites. Are you on a diet? Then choose a route from work to home so that you don’t even get close to pastry shops.

11. Meditate

According to American psychologist Kelly McGonigal, meditation is one of the best ways to develop willpower. She explains it this way. The very concept of “willpower” is related to a person’s ability to focus on a particular task, which he or she is now performing. Many people have certain problems to be attentive and assiduous. Many “irritating” factors constantly interfere — the phone and the Internet with its inexhaustible flow of information. [5]

Meditation just trains the ability to abstract from all the “unnecessary things” and focus on the process. It doesn’t matter what kind of goals a person has. Meditation teaches you to control your feelings, not to toe the line of negative emotions — fears and self-doubt.

Procrastination, reluctance and inability to cope with the tasks, laziness, mild nature — all this is a learned behavior pattern. If you constantly toe the line of the impulses of the body and your own emotions, suffering from the results of such behavior, you must develop and strengthen your willpower. It is important not to miss the moment when there is still an opportunity to change your life for the better, without being at the mercy of numerous bad habits and pathological behavior.

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The 7Spsy behavior modification technique has shown effectiveness in the development of willpower. The certified method is based on the theory of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A.Ukhtomsky, etc.

The course will help you to change the pathological pattern of behavior that prevents you from controlling your own life and confidently achieving your goals. The training will help you to replace negative attitudes with positive ones. This will help to control all life processes, not being at the mercy of fears and complexes, will give strength to solve short-term and long-term problems.

The program is designed for 2-6 weeks. Participation in the training is strictly confidential. Neither colleagues nor friends may know that you are solving personal problems with the participation of aby resorting to a psychologist. Activity with a psychologist takes place in a convenient remote mode — by phone, e-mail, and in online chatrooms. A personal psychologist helps you to work on yourself and answers all the questions that arise during the course.

The development of willpower is an opportunity to change one’s attitude to many life processes and people around you, to build a successful career, and to easily achieve your goals.


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  2. «Sila voli. Vozmi svoiu zhizn pod kontrol», 2011 g., D. Tirni.
  3. «Volia i samokontrol», 2018 g., I. Iakutenko.
  4. «Legkii sposob perestat otkladyvat dela na potom», 2013 g., N. Fore.
  5. «Sila voli. Kak razvit i ukrepit», 2018 g., K. Makgonigal.