How To Develop Willpower and Self-Discipline To Achieve Any Goal

The New Year is near. We all make resolutions at this time but we rarely keep them for long. This post has the main ideas from the book ” The Skinny on Willpower” by Jim Randel. These ideas will help you develop the willpower and self-discipline to achieve any goal that you want, not only for this new year but all through your life.

The one quality which sets one apart from another – the key which lifts one to every aspiration while others are caught up in the mire of mediocrity – is not talent, formal education, nor intellectual brightness; it is self-discipline. With self-discipline, all things are possible. Without it, even the simplest goal can seem like the impossible dream.” – Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States.

99% of those individuals who achieve their goals do so not because they are especially talented, intelligent, good-looking or even lucky, but rather because they find the courage and guts to act in pursuit of their dreams and persist against setbacks.

This means they have will power: the strength to act or forbear from acting in the pursuit of a goal. This helps in taking appropriate action in the face of competing pressures, impulses or temptations. We can develop or improve our will-power and self-discipline at any age.

How to improve our will-power? Three things can help us develop this will power when we aspire to achieve something:

  1. Defining your goal in specific, exact terms. “I will lose 10 kg rather than I will slim down.” Goal specificity is important because it gives your mind and body something concrete and definite to achieve.
  2. Making a commitment to yourself. The commitment primes your whole body, mind and soul to achieve the goal.
  3. Developing a positive mental attitude. Three ways to do that are: (1)break up your goal into small manageable pieces, (2)teach yourself to eject negativism from your mind and (3)find strength in the fact that you are the product of thousands of years of evolution and you have all the skills to accomplish your goals.

However we should remember that no one size fits all when it comes to willpower and achievement:

  • Some share their resolutions with others while some keep them to themselves.
  • Some use the ” all-or-nothing approach” while others use the “all things in moderation approach.” In the “all or nothing approach” you make a decision and then you allow no exceptions. In the “all things in moderation approach” you make a decision and then you progress towards that incrementally.

The availability of will power is directly proportional to the intensity you have for your objective. If you really want it, you will do anything to get it. Success really depends on what you want and what your priorities are. This in many respects boils down to three things:

  • Consciousness: maintaining an awareness of your actions and inactions.
  • Taking ownership of your choices: acknowledging that your action(or inactions) are within your control.
  • Making the right choices: so much easier to do when you are driven by deeply seated values.

Then the real challenge is to resist negative pressures and take appropriate actions day in and day out.

How do we sustain the will power we need to achieve our goal? There are three key steps:

1. Ask yourself how badly you want to achieve this goal. If you badly want to achieve your goal you will sustain your will power. Otherwise, most likely not.
2. Set realistic expectations. Nothing good comes easy. There will be tough times. Expect difficulties so that your willpower will not fade when the difficulties appear.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others. Remember that achievement is tough for everyone. Every single person who achieves something of value struggles and at times thinks about quitting. The succeeder is most often simply the person who won’t quit. So don’t look at someone and think that he has made it easily.

If you have the following attributes, then you are very close to achieving your goals and your will power is all ready to power you towards your goal:

  • Specific goal
  • Commitment to yourself
  • Intense desire
  • Motivation that is intrinsic
  • Expectations that are realistic
  • Avoid comparisons

One thing to remember is that there is a lot of advertising and marketing to subvert your resolve and break your self-discipline. Be aware of that.

Even if you have all the above attributes and have great ideas but never act on them then you will never achieve anything. Many people are in this situation.Unless we use our will power to do that first thing that will get us towards our goals we will not achieve anything. We need to get rid of the inertia that prevents us from doing the first step. Once we take the first step and start doing things that will help us reach our goals, the same inertia becomes our friend by creating rituals and habits which make it easy for us to keep doing the right things that will help us achieve our goals. The following steps can help:

1. The way to do this is to break the task that we want to achieve into manageable chunks. Then you start off doing things in small manageable steps. Don’t try to do all the things in one burst. Slow and steady. The key is easy-to-digest, incremental steps. You need to be patient and move forward in a reasonable fashion.

2. The next thing to do is to develop a will power plan. This consists of the following:

  • Identify crisis points( those instances that you know your will power will be tested) and minimise them.
  • Create preset mental responses( exactly how you will react) when a crisis point arises.
  • Establish a reinforcing mantra. This is a word or phrase to use when you are at a crisis point, you have tried your preset response technique and you still feel your will-power waning.
  • Create an anchor( a speech you give to yourself to accept failures as just setbacks and carry on towards your goal).

3. The other important thing is not to take up too many projects which require a lot of will power as we will not have the the strength to successfully do all of them.

4. We can sometimes build will power by doing things which we automatically don’t do: Postponing scratching when itching arises for as long as you can, driving behind a slow vehicle  or doing things with a non dominant hand. But be reasonable and do not over do it and cause yourself physical or mental harm.

Fear of failure is very common when a person undertakes a new challenge. We all have the strength to defeat this fear.  We can do this by developing strength of mind in the following way:

  • Become aware exactly of the thoughts that are controlling your conduct and making you act in a way that is not in your best interest.
  • Recognise that thoughts are things, just like any other physical object, and therefore, they can be moved in and out of your mind as you see fit.
  • Understand that there is clutter in all of your minds. The mind is a receptacle that contains all sorts of thoughts. Some of them are junk and some of them are good. You can throw the junk and grow the good.
  • Acknowledge that you are running the show. When you start listening to your thoughts you realise that you are not your thoughts. Rather, you are the higher form listening to your thoughts- and therefore you can separate from them. Therefore you can decide which thoughts you want to accept and which thoughts you want to reject.
  • Know that your mind can process only one dominant thought at a time. So if you subjugate all the negative thoughts to one powerful and positive dominating thought, you push the right message to the forefront of your consciousness. the mind can concentrate on only one thing at a time. Focus on what you want to happen

You have the ability to take ownership of the free flow of thoughts in your mind. You can choose what thoughts you want to have and what thoughts to throw away. Throw away fears that are holding you back. Have thoughts of confidence and optimism. Will power is directly related to mind control. Once you realise you have the ability to eject negative thoughts from your mind and inject positive thoughts into the void, you have taken a gigantic step toward a lifetime of self-discipline as and when you need it.

There are no short cuts in life. The people who accomplish the most, who achieve their goals and dreams, are those who have the self-discipline and will power to take the right actions and make the right choices, especially when it is difficult to do so. In almost all cases, achievement is just a story of hard work, persistence and will power.

To summarise all that we have said about improving your will power and discipline, the following are the key 15 points to take away:

  1. Be sure you are totally committed.
  2. Prepare yourself for a difficult journey.
  3. Prepare for your challenge by reducing the instances in which you will need to exert your willpower.
  4. Identify your goal and the process to get there in as concrete, specific and finite terms as possible.
  5. Divide your challenge into small manageable pieces.
  6. Maintain vigilance over your thoughts.
  7. Control your dominant thoughts.
  8. Frame  your challenges in a pleasurable, not painful manner.
  9. Pick your spots.
  10. Force yourself to visualise the end of a succession of “either/or” choices.
  11. You already have more will power than you realise.
  12. The more you use your will power, the more confidence and strength you have for new challenges.
  13. Turn positive activity into habits.
  14. Self-discipline is not self-deprivation. Self discipline is about doing things today that may not be your “first choice” for the pleasure of experiencing bigger and better things tomorrow.
  15. Strong willpower can take you to new heights in life.
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