Boosting Your Willpower

It’s that time of year; with your New Year’s resolution in one hand, and your bucket-full of motivation in the other, you’re ready to tackle 2015.


But whether it’s to get fit, lose weight, visit the library twice a week, or stick to a set study schedule, the chances are your motivation will stutter and you’ll give up on your resolution within six months… A study by the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has revealed that just 8% of people manage to keep their New Year’s resolutions for longer than half the year.


But the reason most people fail to keep their resolutions – or, in fact, any goal they set themselves throughout the year – is that they often expect too much, too soon. Luckily, we’ve discovered some pretty water-tight ways of avoiding this situation that will help you boost your willpower…


1) Set yourself attainable goals


It’s really easy at this time of year to write a long list of resolutions you’d like to make; but success often depends on keeping things simple. Be realistic about what you can achieve and how many changes you can make in one go; overwhelming yourself is a sure-fire way of failing. So, instead of resolving to eat healthier food, study more, lose weight, spend less money and more time with family, all in one go, start by isolating and getting the ball rolling on each resolution, before moving on to another.


One of the best ways to ensure your goals are attainable is to break each one down into manageable chunks. For instance, instead of generally trying to get fit, set out a framework which increases in intensity; work-out for half an hour, twice a week in weeks one and two, and then progress to three times in weeks four and five; then increase your work-out time to 45 minutes in weeks six and seven, and so on…


2) Keep track of your progress


Each time you achieve your weekly goal, make sure you recognise and enjoy it; small successes will help boost your motivation. The best way of doing this is to work within a framework of attainable goals, as above, so that it’s clear when you’ve reached each of your milestones.


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3) Be patient


One of the most effective ways of maintaining your willpower is to start-out with the knowledge that whatever your goal, it will take some time to achieve. In other words, try not to get downbeat when you don’t see immediate effects. It doesn’t matter if it’s to lose a stone, or achieve a certain grade; the chances are that to be successful you will need to put in weeks of hard-graft before you reach your goal.


Staying patient, alongside setting yourself achievable goals and keeping track of your successes will help ensure you keep your motivation up, which will in turn increase the likelihood of you achieving your overall goal, and, apparently, staying happy…


The evidence


The Marshmallow experiment, which began over forty years ago, provides strong evidence to suggest that people who practise strong willpower are happier and more successful…


In the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel offered a group of four-year-olds the choice of a marshmallow now, or two marshmallows in 15 minutes’ time. Along with his team of researchers, he then tracked the performance of these children throughout their adulthoods; studying the relationship between those who gave into temptation and those who practised strong willpower. They found that the children who had waited the extra 15 minutes for two marshmallows achieved greater academic success, better health, and lower divorce rates than those who didn’t wait.


So, there you have it; if you use these guidelines not only for specific goals, but on a wider and longer-term scale, you’re more likely to be happy and successful… It’s that easy!


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