Want to increase willpower? Start with self-discipline
So many people raise eyebrows when I float the idea in conversation. Discipline, a rigid thing, way too austere to match the creative and innovative world we know.
But discipline is one thing I’ve learned to appreciate over time.
Maybe it’s because I’ve “lived” a little more or maybe it’s because yoga puts you well on your way to self-discipline. And, as a yoga teacher, I constantly experiment with ways to increase willpower.
The people who come to my classes will inevitably do similar poses from one week to the other. They might succeed at first attempt, second or… find themselves nowhere near to what the end result looks like (if there’s such a thing in yoga).
Some days I can sense the frustration in the room, so I tell them: “Here, the prize is not in the pose, it’s in the process. That’s why you show up every week.”
The concept of being disciplined is all too often misunderstood. Do you see it as a set of rigid actions, something that constrains more than liberates?
Then it could be time to make a mental shift to boost your inner strength and learn how to increase willpower. Because once you understand how self-discipline works, first, you will get that it’s a hugely powerful tool and, second, you will adopt it for life.
Let me explain.
1. Lowering your inner resistance
Our brains love the path of least resistance. That’s why most of the time we’re tempted to make short-term choices, even if, in the long-run, we end up paying for it in the form of negative consequences.
But is that really how you keep a focused mind and increase your willpower?
See, years ago I decided to restrict my consumption of alcohol (well… a necessary thing when you live in London). I was preparing for my yoga teacher training and thought it was a great opportunity to go dry for a few months. Focusing on how it would make me feel months later helped me get started.
Then, what happened?
Ordering a soft drink at the pub became a habit. Saying no to a glass of wine with friends too. Years after my teacher training was over, I still rarely drink alcohol.
Some of my friends think I can tap into my inner leader and increase my willpower, to the point where I can resist the temptation at any time. But in reality, I built the self-discipline to say no to alcohol, which turned into a way of life where the benefits are real.
When you have developed a constructive relationship with discipline — and I agree it can take some time — you can respond with the end in mind. For each next step, you have an awareness of how it will best serve you in the future. That’s how you build the self-discipline to reach your goals.
2. How to increase willpower with ease
In my opinion, mastering self-discipline is not about self-control. It’s certainly not obeying a set of strict rules that have little meaning to you.
To increase willpower further, there’s no point forcing yourself to do something you’re not ready to do. (Your inner resistance is way, way stronger than that.) To succeed and build any positive change for yourself, you need to let awareness show up before you increase willpower.
First, you’re clear on what benefit you want to create for yourself.
Then you become aware of the choice you’re making.
And finally, you expand your choice until consistent work produces visible results.
Oh yes, to increase willpower or build up self-discipline generally doesn’t come naturally to us. That’s why it’s so important to focus on what will stay with you after the job is done.
Think about it: how much easier is your life when you have an anchor point? In the long-run, isn’t it easier to stick to a routine you created for yourself because you believe in the associated benefits? And most importantly: isn’t it easier to get started?
That’s how you create healthy habits to support any course of action you want to take. That’s how you get “the drive to do it over and over again”. That’s how you simply drop your inner resistance to change.
And then comes the real gift: once you’ve practised enough to improve yourself, those habits become part of your behaviour. You find yourself looking at your self-discipline to increase willpower.
There are no rigid rules any more, just another set of things you do to improve yourself.
If you want to know how to increase willpower, start with patience instead of pace.
Turning discipline into positive habits is about the larger journey. It’s being excited about the learning you’ll receive through the challenges you’ll face.
That’s why you need to build up self-discipline to initiate real long-term change. Be it in the way you lead yourself, your life or others if that’s what you have to do at work.
Look at it this way, then you get a good feel for why some people seem to use their intuition as a growth asset and keep charging ahead.
They’re not overly in control of themselves.
They’re no super-heroes.
They just know how to keep alive that little voice in their head, the one telling them to sustain action over time. Because in the end, the prize is in the process.
Is self-discipline your friend or enemy? Tell your story in the comments below!