The Truth About Willpower

Many people assume that a lack of willpower is what prevents a person from achieving the thing they set out to achieve. It is often said that someone who struggles with being overweight most certainly lacks willpower in controlling their eating habits and people who suffer from any type of addiction must simply “will” themselves to stop pursuing their drug of choice if they want to recover. Google defines willpower as “control exerted to do something or restrain impulses”. It seems that will power is looked at as some kind of superpower that some people have to control their life and those who do not are doomed to live a life being controlled by their impulses. Do you believe that some people are either born with this power and some are not? If everyone has this ability ingrained in the core of their being then can you really ever “lack” it?

Your Will Power is Limited if Not Used Properly

Recent research has shown that will power is like a muscle and gets fatigued after a while. And like a muscle, it will lose its stamina if not exercised properly. Saying no to a box of donuts the first time may be easier than the third or fourth time. Each time you have to make a choice to do something or not do it requires will power and quickly exhausts it. When you focus on the idea of whether or not you can “will” yourself to do something you quickly exhaust your mental ability to cope effectively with the situation at hand and will most likely take all the donuts or the extra shot of tequila which either leads you to believe you “lack” will power or someone else will mention it to you. So what can you do then?

According to Psychology Today, there are many ways you can strengthen your willpower, below are a few (Dr. Denise Cummins, June 21, 2013): 

  • Don’t keep yourself in a constant state of willpower depletion: Exercising self-control is a great way to use willpower but never giving yourself a break will surely deplete it. This may work fine for the occasional cookie but when it comes to drug abuse it’s important to find a healthy alternative to “giving yourself a break”.
  • Build good habits: Stress depletes will power. When stressed people tend to fall back on bad habits. Having good habits to resort to particularly in stressful times can not only strengthen willpower but also helps prevent relapses. Make a list of healthy alternatives to the not so healthy habits you’ve had in the past.
  • One step at a time: Whether it’s losing weight or recovering from a drug addiction healing takes time. Know your own limits and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Through counseling, you can also learn to harness the power of your will to reach deeper and understand your own personal struggle with addiction and where it stems from to change core beliefs. Understanding our root beliefs and expectations and identifying problematic patterns can help to change core beliefs. By changing core beliefs you are changing who you are and what you want and a lifestyle change becomes more effortless as opposed to constantly telling yourself what you should or should not do. For example, when you decide you want to recover from an addiction, it’ll be exhausting to consistently try to see if you can “will” yourself to refrain from using your drug of choice. It might work the first week but throughout time mental exhaustion will kick in and temptations will too. But keeping your “willpower muscle” strong and learning the root issue can make it easier for you to say no or choose to go another direction.

This is one of the many reasons therapy is so important during recovery and is offered in the best rehab centers. It’s important to know that you’re not alone in this process and there are qualified people in place to support you. Will power is in all of us. It becomes more of a superpower when you BELIEVE in its existence instead of thinking you lack it and keep it strong and healthy. A superpower cannot be taken away from the hero, it’s just a matter of how he or she uses it.