Do you remember the times when you’re faced with decisions, and you know what’s the right decision to make, yet you still choose the unfavorable one?

Why do we willfully choose to do things that are bad for us? Why do we sabotage ourselves?

It’s partly because of willpower… or a lack thereof.

What is willpower, you ask?

Willpower is “the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action“.

It has also been used interchangeably with determination, drive, resolve, self-discipline and self-control.

Most psychological scientists would define willpower as:

  • The ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.
  • The capacity to override an unwanted thought, feeling or impulse.
  • The ability to employ a “cool” cognitive system of behavior rather than a “hot” emotional system.
  • Conscious, effortful regulation of the self by the self.
  • A limited resource capable of being depleted.

Here are some tips to help you maximize your willpower:

1. Set Clear Goals

When you’ve set a goal, you’re more likely to stick to it. Make it a practice to write down your daily, short-term goals (e.g. exercise for 15 minutes or sleep at 9pm) in line with your long-term goals (e.g. staying healthy).

Writing your goals down is essential to your success. Take a moment to write down your goals now, and you’ll feel instantly empowered to take the next step towards your productivity and success!

2. Use the “If-Then” Strategy

Coined by psychologists, the if-then strategy (also known as the implementation intention) can help increase your chances of success when you’re faced with situations where you’re most likely to fail.

This technique allows you to anticipate future scenarios and how respond to them. For example, if you’re dieting and attending a party, you can tell yourself ahead of time, “If they offer me a bottle of soda, then I’ll ask for water.

3. Avoid Temptation

It’s easier to avoid eating a box of cookies when it’s shelved at the grocery store than stashed at your kitchen cupboard.

Impulsively spending too much time on social media? Hide the app in a folder and ensure it’s not readily visible, put your phone in a drawer, or better yet, delete the app.

Out of sight, out of mind!

4. Stay Motivated

Having the right motivation helps you push through situations where your willpower is depleted. Think about the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing as often as you can, and check your goals regularly to help you stay on the right track.

5. Eat Small Frequently

Your brain needs more-than-the-usual amount of glucose when making big decisions. Making decisions, especially big ones, require a lot of willpower.

Eat healthier snacks like peanuts, almonds, or cacao nibs to help you minimize willpower depletion.

6. Focus on One Goal at a Time

For you to successfully make a positive change in your life, you’ll need to work at one goal at a time. Each goal takes up some willpower and juggling too many goals at once can easily deplete your willpower, and you will have ended up with no accomplished goals.

7. Keep Going

Willpower is like a muscle—it gets exhausted when overused, but grows stronger with sustained practice. The more you exercise mastery over your willpower, the stronger it gets, and the more you are able to utilize it in the achievement of your goals.

We very easily lose our willpower not because we think about it, but because we don’t. We need to appreciate that it is a limited resource, and purposely protect it every day.