Training senior man with willpower

Published on October 26th, 2013 | by Joe Starks

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Athletic Science: Willpower

Willpower is something most of us wish we had more of. It is the ability to delay some pleasant decisions so that we can achieve a long term goal. Willpower might just be your ability to say no to an impulsive thought. For others willpower is all about self-control. One thing is certain though, that willpower is something some of us have more of than others. Can it be taught? Is it genetic? Can you and I get more of it without sacrificing too much? These and more questions we’ll answer in this athletic science article.

Is willpower learnable?

It seems to be a skill some of us have mastered, while others do not even know how it is to have it. You see it all around us. Some people can seemingly easily not give in to great temptation, while others are constantly seeking it out. Some people find it fairly easy to stay faithful to a partner, to eat only healthy food and to stay fit. Others can’t even imagine how it would be if they could always choose the option that brings the most long-term benefits.

It is obvious though that some people used to have less willpower and managed to gain more of it in time. For instance children often seem to lack willpower, especially when it comes to choosing long term pleasure over short term. With correct education almost all children grow up to have more willpower than when they absolutely had to have what they wanted immediately.

Part of learning to have more willpower is to learn the responsibility that comes with taking care of yourself. Usually long term benefits are far better for us than short term ones, especially since they often lead us to live longer and higher quality lives.

When you are thoroughly educated about your choices you are one step closer to making a better decision.

Another way to realize that willpower can be taught is that children of parents that exhibit a lot of willpower learn to have more of it too when they grow up.

Is willpower genetic?

It might be, but there are not enough studies on the subject yet. There are some genetic diseases that take away all your ability to have any willpower at all. Some people cannot stop eating until they literally choke on food, because of their genetic disease which is called Prader-Willi syndrome.

So something these people lack in their genetic code makes them totally unable to control themselves, even if that means certain and pretty rapid death.

Some genetic diseases take away our human ability to control our temper or to control our reaction to our environment.

Mental health certainly plays a great part when it comes to the genetics of willpower. People who suffer from mental diseases often lack the capacity to control their own behavior to have more long term happiness.

Why do we want it?

Without willpower we’d be slaves to our own basal needs and biological impulses. Imagine if you simply took everything you wanted the moment you desired it. We’d be rapists, thieves and killers in the end. We need willpower to improve our own quality of life and to be able to have meaningful relationships together with other people.

It takes willpower to decide upon a good lifestyle for you and everyone else who depends on you. You need willpower to go through with every great long term goal. You can’t get a degree, get married, have a successful relationship and stay as healthy as possible if you can’t guide yourself through temptation.

How to get it

The best immediate way to get more willpower is to stop abusing the amount you have. Willpower is finite and easily depleted when you tire yourself and when you don’t give yourself some alternatives when you say no to an impulse. For instance if you want to lose weight then you should not waste willpower on staying awake or depriving yourself from entertainment. Make sure you channel your willpower into the right cause. Cover your needs as well as possible without ruining your long term goal.

To increase your willpower you can also do certain exercises, training yourself to stay away from temptation. The first step to do that is to educate yourself on the goals you want to achieve and to find out how other people successfully did it. Secondly you can get yourself a coach that is adept in the area where you want to have more willpower for. Life coaches, trainers and dieticians for instance are all very good to show you how to have more willpower for certain tasks.

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