Boost your willpower | Sunday Observer

Boost your willpower

The dictionary defines willpower as control of one’s impulses and actions. The key words are ‘power’ and ‘control.’ You may have the power, but you have to learn how to control it.

How can you do it?

Modern psychology provides us with a set of guidelines to control? our power. Willpower is most dynamic when applied to positive, uplifting purposes. Some young men and women are engaged in stressful jobs. To get over the stress they tend to smoke or drink. They will soon realise that they are wasting their money and endangering their health. If you have the willpower, you will be able to give up such bad habits.

There are many ways to spend your leisure time. Reading, listening to music, walking or simply cleaning your room can be profitable activities. To do such activities you do not need? much willpower. Positive willpower helps us to overcome inertia and focus on the future. Whether you are studying or employed, you have a future. When life’s activities and responsibilities become unbearable, you have to visualise yourself being happily and busily engaged in your goal.

Making decisions

You need a little willpower to make decisions. Most teenagers are unable to make up their minds a nd seek help from their peers. Psychology Professor James Prochaska has identified four stages in making a change in your life. The first stage is pre-contemplation or resisting the change. The second stage is contemplation or weighing the pros and cons of the change. The third stage is action or exercising will-power to make the change. The fourth stage is maintenance or using willpower to sustain the change.

Unfortunately, some of us are chronic contemplators. We know that we should cut down on smoking or give up drinking. While contemplating you will light another cigarette or gulp down another glass of beer.? This way we will never be able to put contemplation into action.

While contemplating, you should set deadlines. Make a firm decision to give up smoking from today itself and stick to it. This applies to other bad habits as well. If you want to lose weight, for instance, there are more ways than one to reach your target.

New Year resolutions

Most teenagers make New Year resolutions, but they do not stick to them. If you have resolved to be nice to others, you should not change it after a couple of days. Always zero-in? on your target without making vague resolutions such as “I’m going to get more exercise” or “I’m going to read more books.” Be specific and tell yourself: “I’m going to walk for 30 minutes every morning” or “I’m going to read a book for an hour every night.”

Some teenagers have the desire to do many things, but they are halfhearted when it comes to achieving their goals. Desire alone will not bring you any success. Sometimes, we have to feed our ego. That means knowing that? the benefits of giving up smoking alone is not sufficient. We should have? the desire to improve our self-image. As a non-smoker you will have a pleasant body odour and you will also save? much money. Such rational arguments are convincing.

Acting as if you are strong-willed can help you to be strong-willed. The great 17th century French General Vicomte de Turenne used to march into battle at the head of his troops. Asked about it, he said, “I conduct myself like a brave man, but all the time I’m afraid. I don’t give in to fear but say to my body, ‘Tremble, old carcass, but walk!’ And my body walks.”

Sharpening the will

In order to have strong willpower, you have to sharpen your will all the time. You can do this by getting more organised in your daily activities. Attending private tuition classes, revising the lessons, and reading books should be done in a methodical way leaving no room for idling.

When you start building your willpower, you will invariably face problems and obstacles. If you have given up smoking, rehearse your answer when you are offered a cigarette. The same goes with drinking and other bad habits.

Even the strongest willpower will falter at times. Therefore, it is best to set a series of small goals instead of a single big one. Follow the Alcoholic Anonymous slogan: ‘One day at a time’. That means divide your objective into one-day segments and renew your resolve the next day.

Facet of ego

In the mind’s arena, willpower (a facet of ego) represents a wrestling match between? the top and bottom systems. Willpower keeps us focused on our goals despite the tug of our impulses, passions, habits and cravings. This cognitive control represents a ‘cool’ mental system that makes an effort to pursue our goals in the face of our ‘hot’ emotional reactions – quick, impulsive and automatic. Decades of research show the singular importance of willpower in determining the course of life. How we focus holds the key to willpower, says Walter Mischal at Stanford University.

In fifth-century India, monks were encouraged to contemplate the ‘thirty-two body parts’, a list of unappealing corners of human biology: dung, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, fat, snot and so on. This focus on distasteful aspects was meant to build detachment from one’s own body, as well as to help celibate monks disavow lust, and to boost willpower.

For every hurdle we want to overcome, we need willpower. For every difficult decision we want to carry out, we need an inner strength that will push us to confront the challenge and keep us going. Yet, all too often we come up short and lament: “I just didn’t have enough willpower.” The fact remains that willpower is not some immutable trait we’re either born with or not. It is a skill that can be developed, strengthened and targeted to help us achieve our goal.

Italian psychologist Roberto Assagioli said, “Fundamental among man’s inner powers is the tremendous unrealised potency of man’s own will.” Allan Marlatt, a psychologist who is studying how willpower helps people break habits and change their lives said, “Strong willpower demands patience, something you cannot develop overnight. If you have successfully mastered the willpower, you will be able to kick any bad habit or gain confidence to confront other challenges in life.”

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