Self-discipline is something we all prize – and wish we had more of. Like many of our mental states and attitudes, it is hard to determine exactly where it comes from and what we can do to cultivate it. But psychologists who study willpower say that there are things you can do to improve it.
Like any part of the body, it can become worn out if you use it a lot, but it can also become stronger by repeatedly exercising it. Not only that, but if you exercise self-discipline in one activity, you will find that you will have more willpower in other areas as well. If you exercise self-discipline with an exercise routine, you may find that you are better able to maintain your diet as well.
And it might be heartening to know that willpower is pretty much inexhaustible. Even if we feel that we are too tired to continue, there is always a little left that we can summon up, depending on how motivated we are.
Here are a few things you can do to help with your willpower:
1. Avoid temptation.
It’s as simple as that. If you don’t want to eat that candy bar on the table in front of you, put it in a desk drawer. Out of sight, out of mind.
2. Plan ahead.
Good planning also helps maintain willpower. For example, if you know you need to workout later, set a specific time to do it. Have your gym articles ready to go. Make sure that nothing else is planned that may interfere with going.
3. Raise your blood glucose levels.
Believe it or not, studies have shown that higher blood sugar levels tend to give a little boost to willpower. So, if you find your self-discipline flagging, you might want to take that candy bar out of the drawer after all.
4. Avoid long lists.
Making a long list of behaviors you want to change really won’t help that much. Research has shown that if you want to change a behavior, you need to focus on one thing at a time. Choose a behavior you want to change, and work on it alone, because it takes a lot of willpower and effort to replace a bad habit with a good one. However, once you have a good habit established, it takes less effort to maintain it. Then you can move on to something else.
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