A lot of the stuff we recommend doing, eating, or changing on Health Now, Wealth Forever requires some degree willpower. We haven’t had a single article on improving your willpower. It’s like we just expect you to have an iron will; to be able to conquer your biggest enemy, your own mind.
But, that’s not the case. We haven’t written anything on the subject because we can’t always stand up to the powerful desire to do the easy thing ourselves. We have to hound each other to post. We sometimes even fail at the easy task of hounding each other.
I have immersed myself in two recent books on willpower. They each came out last year. And both have some answers as to why we fail to stick to our goals. One, called The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal, is more about practicing and strengthening your will to stay on track. The other book is more about the science of willpower. It’s called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength and is written by a man on the forefront of the study of willpower Roy F. Baumeister and science writer John Tierney. I’ve found both exceptional in their own ways.
Kelly McGonigal includes a few exercises that help improve your willpower. This one is pretty easy (I will paraphrase, as I could not renew this very popular book from the library before I wrote this post.):
To strengthen your willpower “muscle”, exercise it with this meditative process once a day starting at 5 minutes and working your way towards 15 or as long as you want.
Find a quiet room with a comfortable chair. Sit very still, resist the urge to shift in the chair or turn your head. Face a blank wall, or close your eyes. Breathe slowly, in through your nose out, out through your mouth. As you breathe, clear your mind by thinking “inhale” as you breathe in and “exhale” as you breathe out. After about 10 breaths, start to just focus on the process of breathing to keep your mind clear. This is incredibly difficult for most people, and it should be if your willpower muscles are weak. When your mind drifts, and fills with thoughts, catch it as soon as possible and start the process over with the internal “inhale/exhale”. Increase the length of time you exercise as the length you can keep a clear mind increases.
When I do this exercise I feel refreshed and clear headed for several hours afterwards.