The words “will” and “power” add up to one mighty force in our lives—or lack thereof. If we had more of it—willpower, that is—we could be richer, thinner, more successful, and the wish list goes on. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines willpower as: determination, drive, resolve, self-discipline and self-control, all admirable and desirable traits.
APA says willpower can also be defined 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
Power to the power
The APA’s annual Stress in America survey reports that lack of willpower is the prime reason that people don’t make and keep healthy lifestyle choices. Survey respondents said they think they can learn willpower, and in fact, research shows it can be strengthened with practice. I didn’t love practicing piano, but I’m up for practicing willpower, aren’t you? Strengthen your willpower just like you strengthen muscles, and start to measure tangible results. Don’t just think you can: You can!
Willpower should be on our team because it is correlated with positive life outcomes such as better grades, higher self-esteem, lower substance abuse rates, greater financial security and improved physical and mental health. As a baby boomer, I wish I’d known all this earlier, but then, I wish I’d known a lot of things earlier.
Act now, pay later
When we don’t have willpower, we act on impulse—which may feel good then, but not so later when we have to “pay the piper.” Our tendency to “give in and go for it” occurs when exposure to an emotionally charged stimulus overrides our rational, cognitive system. Avoiding temptation and planning ahead, says APA, may help us have the willpower we need.
Set your goals, get in your willpower groove, and keep track of your achievements. The (will) power is within you.
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