Work Out Your Willpower to Achieve your Goals

Would you consider willpower as the greatest human strength?  The strength that will lead you to achieve your wellness goals?  Imagine being able to resist every temptation to finally break your sugar habit.  Or commit to the exercise plan you’ve put on the back burner.  Perhaps it’s rest and relaxation you need, so instead of saying ‘Yes’ to every request, you give yourself a break and finally say ‘No’!  All it takes is willpower, right!?

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What is Willpower?

Simply defined – Willpower equals Self-Control.  It’s your ability to consciously direct your behavior to accomplish set goals.  I am currently reading a book about willpower by authors, Roy Baumeister and John Tierney titled – Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.  In this book based on research and experiments, they presented an in-depth look at the incredible ability of willpower to transform yourself for the better.

Ultimately, self-control lets you relax because it removes stress and enables you to conserve willpower for the important challenges.”

As someone who is an avid learner, I couldn’t resist but also listen to an audiobook about the same subject.  This one is by Kelly McGonigal –The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.  I love how she defined willpower in these terms:
“Willpower is about harnessing the three powers of I Will, I Won’t, and I Want to help you achieve your goals.”

I Will 

Doing what you need to do even when part of you don’t want to do it. It’s been a few years since I’ve done the Runner’s World Run Streak and I decided to do it this year. I didn’t exactly commit but told myself I was going to try. Today is the 9th day and the streak is still going! There were days when I didn’t want to run but I pushed myself to do it anyway and I felt great afterwards.  Now I feel more compelled to continue until New Year’s Day!

Run Streak Willpower
My running buddy!

I Won’t 

What usually comes to mind when we think about self-control is resisting temptations. Right now, I am hosting a Sugar Detox Challenge where some people have admitted how difficult it is to say no when there are sugary treats around.  They have to use their willpower to limit their sugar intake.

willpower temptations

I Want

This is the power that drives you to say yes and no when needed based on your desire to achieve your goals. When you are clear on your wellness goals and you know exactly what you want, you exert self-control on things that matter.

Why is it important to know what matters most?  Because willpower can be depleted!

Time to Workout

Unfortunately willpower is finite.  A lot of factors can diminish your self-control like stress, lack of sleep, making decisions throughout the day, even improper nutrition.  However, the discouraging part is the more you exert self-control, the more it’s depleted.  Which is why dieters who wants to quickly lose weight do not succeed.  As Baumeister pointed, it’s best to use self-control for gradual changes that are more sustainable rather than a quick fix.

The good news is you can strengthen your willpower!  Like working out your muscles, you can also do a workout for your willpower.  It’s choosing a simple, small action to do consistently that requires you to exert self-control.  One example is to use your less dominant hand for a period of time each day, like brushing your teeth or drinking your water.  Even tracking something you don’t normally do can improve willpower.  In the Sugar Detox Challenge, I encourage everyone to look at every nutrition label for all packaged foods consumed to track the amount of added sugars.

How about you? Could you use more self-control in your life?  When is it most likely for you to have less self-control?  What would change about you if you were to have more willpower?



  1. I have pretty reasonable self-control and pretty strong willpower. I do believe in mind over matter, and I strive to that in my life.

    1. Wonderful to hear Jenn!

  2. I have the least self-control (of sorts) in the morning when it comes to pressing my snooze button. (I’m trying to convert to doing morning workouts but it’s been rough. ._.) Thanks for these tips!

    1. Hope the tips help you with being consistent with your morning workouts.

  3. My willpower has been lacking at just about everything lately! I am glad I came across this and really appreciate the tips!!

    1. I hope it helps Angela. Thanks!

  4. Yay!!! Glad the streak is going strong! I think my will power is decent, but I know it can waiver if I’m physically tired and/or my mind is exhausted.

    1. Thank you. Exhaustion can do that to our willpower.

  5. I like the Will-Won’t-Want framework. I think remembering your big want can help you exercise your will power in the moment.

    1. I agree with you – keeping your “I want” top of mind can get you through a lot of difficult willpower challenges.

  6. Congrats on your runstreak! Definitely takes a lot of willpower to keep that going.

    I need to practice my will power when it comes to food!

    1. Thanks Kim. Food is a willpower challenge for many of us!

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