In my mid-twenties, I weighed about 145 pounds. Thin, weak, embarrassed and insecure. I had tried lifting weights, bought hundreds of dollars’ worth of weight gainer drinks (regurgitated many of them), and tried every (legal) supplement I could to bulk up. I didn’t experience any success, but I also failed to exercise willpower over a long enough period for any one program to work.
Some friends and roommates I worked with invited me to start going to the gym with them after we got off work every day. Actually, I didn’t have much of a choice since we carpooled and they went straight to the weights after our shift. One to two hours of weightlifting four to five days each week. Lots of soreness, but lots of encouragement from friends who had the same commitment to be strong and healthy. About 6,000 calories worth of food and supplements every day.
If I had done this for one week, or even two, do you think I would have seen any results? I didn’t. Even after a month or two, I hadn’t gained much weight or developed much muscle definition. With the collective commitment of these friends, and occasional harassment if I tried to get out of lifting, I maintained this regime for about 8 months.
I had deliberately stayed off of the scale for a few months. I didn’t want to discourage myself. One morning I got brave and stepped on the scale after the other guys. 180 pounds! I remember Tyler asked, “Holy hell…what have you been doing???” I guess he suspected some type of steroid use, but it was something much more effective and sustainable: willpower.
I knew I had really achieved something when I went back to visit my family one weekend. We all gathered outside my parents’ pool to go swimming. I took off my shirt and my younger brother Jeff, said, “DAMN, Steve!” He asked about what I’d been doing to gain that muscle mass and definition. More important than any specific program or supplement? Willpower and determination.
Nothing ever did so much for my self-esteem (not even advanced college degrees, high-paying jobs, gorgeous girlfriends, etc.) than that physical improvement I made over 6-8 months.
Now I’m in my early forties. 202 pounds! Overweight, flabby, and lethargic. The last time I took off my shirt at a family pool party, my older brother Greg said, “DAMN, Steve!” He asked about what I had NOT been doing and why I’d lost all that muscle mass and definition.
Sure, I can blame the sedentary nature of the work I do, cold weather/ice/snow that makes running outside more difficult, no time for more serious exercise, etc. But the real problem? Failing to exercise willpower. I’ve asked myself what I need to do to rediscover that same willpower I enjoyed earlier in life.
Willpower is the Secret Ingredient…the Super-Supplement
We blame many of our problems on a lack of time, money, or energy when it’s really a lack of willpower that invites difficulty and prevents achievement.
One woman I know hates her job, has a great idea for a business she can start to escape from that job, and also has a lot of discretionary time she could use to develop her business idea. But she hasn’t taken those first steps to realize her goal. She’s not fearful, that I can tell, about starting her business. She has the capital and/or credit she needs. She doesn’t have the willpower.
A friend of mine needs to eat less food, eat healthier food, and exercise more to avoid the heart disease and diabetes which have run in his family for several generations. He’s aware that he’s inviting the same fate his diseased (dead) ancestors suffered by not making these changes. He’s not grinding that double bacon cheeseburger and sucking that Coca-Cola ignorantly. He’s simply not exercising his willpower to make and maintain the needed changes.
What is Willpower?
The definition of willpower, according to Merriam-Webster is “the ability to control yourself: a strong determination that allows you to do something difficult (such as to lose weight or quit smoking).”
That definition hints at another related concept, self-discipline, which I will write about later. I want to focus on the “strong determination that allows you to do something difficult” portion of willpower.
Why Should I Increase My Willpower?
As you increase your willpower, you will be able to take responsibility for your circumstances in life. A commitment to increasing your willpower ensures you spend more time finding ways to accomplish things rather than making excuses for not trying. You’ll live with fewer regrets, more optimism, and a greater sense of empowerment.
More willpower results in better heath, more income, better social and career opportunities, and much higher self-esteem.
If you fail to develop more willpower, you’ll feel you’re not in control of your life. Many of the problems that plague you–problems that come from a lack of discipline–will continue to haunt you…and worsen. Embarrassment and regret will shadow everything you do.
How to Increase Your Willpower
1) Realize that willpower is a choice you make, not something that you “get.”
You already have all the willpower you need to get started. You have to choose to exercise it. Willpower is not genetic, it’s a choice.
The exercise of willpower generates momentum and, in turn, further increases your willpower. Blaming anyone, any event, or any circumstance weakens willpower
2) Reinforce your determination.
Determination gets materialized through making commitments, especially to other people. Tell friends and mentors about your goals. This will create beneficial peer pressure and accountability.
List all the consequences that come into your life because of deficient willpower, print that list out, and review it often to reinforce your determination.
List all the benefits that will come as you exercise more willpower, print that list out, and review it often to further reinforce your determination.
3) Identify, expect, and prepare for difficulties.
What is the most significant threat to making the changes you seek in life? When that challenge is presented, what will you do to ensure it doesn’t stop you?
The changes or accomplishments you desire will require a long time and maintaining that willpower over weeks, months, or years may be your greatest challenge. What can you do to sustain your commitment and willpower over a long period of time?
One observation: don’t use drugs to try to motivate yourself. Illegal or prescription drugs, and even food/beverage based drugs like caffeine, are poor substitutes for willpower. Their benefits are unsustainable and they invite consequences which overshadow any short-lived advantage they bring.
Also consider this as you work to maintain your willpower over time: What events or which people erode your willpower and how can you defeat them?
What Are You Going to Do (Today) to Increase Your Willpower?
Any one of the above suggestions is something you can do right now, as you’re reading this. Any delay is simply excuse-making. I’ve made the commitment to myself and to you, that the next time we have a family pool party, I’m going to get someone to say, “DAMN, Steve”…all over again. But the next time it’s going to be the good “Damn, Steve” that Jeff said, not the embarrassing “Damn, Steve” that Greg said.
An easy way to start regenerating your willpower is to share this information with your friends. Use the buttons below to share this information with them, to begin the dialogue, and to get their help making the changes you want to experience in your life: