by Tony Gjokaj February 27, 2020 4 min read

Willpower: the ability to resist short-term gratification for long-term results or goals.

People believe they either have willpower or they don't. Truth is: willpower is like a muscle. It can be trained, and can be exhausted from "exercising it". Understanding this, you should be able to strategize for situations where you're trying to build a new habit, and your willpower disappears.

Let's talk about willpower, and the ways to conquer positive habits even when our brain is against us in this blog post!

Willpower and The Brain Systems

Recall in our previous blog posts based on Daniel Kahneman's work, we can look at our brain as operating in 1-2 systems: a System 1 and System 2 brain. The System 1 brain is instinctive and lazy: it requires less energy to expend. The System 2 brain is slow, deliberate and logical: this one drains more of our energy.

Now what happens if our long day at work is unpredictable and requires more critical thinking and actions out of the ordinary? We expend more brain energy, and we "overtrain" our willpower muscle.

When we come home, our willpower has been so weakened that we can't resist the junk food in our cabinet. As a result, we mess up on our diets.

This sucks, don't you think?

Willpower Reinforcement

Now when willpower is gone and you can't resist those Oreos in your kitchen cabinets... what can you do? We want you to understand that quite simply, habit-building is typically influenced by two things:

  1. Small and incremental steps.
  2. Your environment.

Understanding this, we can build one hell of a willpower reinforcement program.

Training Your Willpower

The best way to strengthen willpower is to build stronger habits that reinforce eachother. 

How in the hell can you train your willpower? This sounds as a ridiculous thought, but strengthening the mind and body are our specialty here at Reforged.

Exercise Your Body

Working out not only improves your physique, but optimizes your brain as well. Think about all of the repetitions and consistency that strength athletes have to endure in order to effectively dominate in their sport.

Their mind is active while they're training.

They got here from starting small and working their way up. Building positive habits will then equate to discipline... and having this will make your willpower one hell of a strong muscle.

Exercise Your Mind

In the fitness aspect of things, we don't really talk about exercising the mind. We have mentioned that exercising the mind can be mental and even spiritual. Reinforcing this with a "rise ritual" that includes meditation, reading, or podcasts will really help sharpen the mind.

As a result, you are less stressed, more focused, and your mood is significantly heightened. You appreciate more things.

Doing this will also reinforce your willpower muscle because you're constantly looking to improve. If your habit is to constantly improve, your willpower to resist things that don't align with your goals is strengthened.

Habit Momentum

Let's say you start working on your diet before you exercise. You want to drop a few pounds with just the diet alone. Once you get into this habit, you decide to exercise.

As a result, the exercise is easier because you have built a habit of eating better and making better food choices. After that, you want to read one book a month, so your habits from exercise and nutrition make it easier for you to do so.

Stronger positive habits build momentum that will transfer over to creating more positive habits. Especially when you understand that small incremental steps and your environment control your habits.

Eliminate Any Triggers or Distractions

Our habits are shaped by our environment... and home is our sanctuary, our safe place. This is where laziness occurs, and an attempt at new habits is typically destroyed. It's a dangerous place.

How can we make it one moving towards your positive habits and productivity? From studies on Behavioral Psychology, here are a few tips that can typically help us:

Make your Junk Food Hard-to-Reach, or Nonexistent at Home

One of my favorite studies on this offers a suggestion that we should change our environment to feel like a healthier one. When our brain is drained from System 2 decisions, System 1 kicks in. This is one where we mindlessly eat everything in the cabinet and can't control ourselves.

If you move junk food away from eye level, or make it difficult to grab without a stepstool, your System 1 brain will be too lazy to grab them. As ridiculous as it sounds, try it when willpower is gone.

Portion Control

Remember Supersize MeSure he ate a ridiculous amount of calories purposely, but this applies. Having larger portions of food increases calorie consumption in us... especially if we don't track food intake or have a system that we can use.

One way to combat this is to follow our Methods on Flexible Nutrition.

Another way is to buy tiny snack bowls and cups and put your snacks in those instead of eating directly from the bag. There are studies that say that there's a something psychologically satiating in eating directly from a plate.

Willpower Reinforced

I can talk about these topics everyday, yet I feel the most important thing we should start with is something this simple: optimize your rise/fall (morning/evening) rituals, and you'll be able to build positive habits overtime.

Once you get this down, you can apply the strategies necessary to continue reinforcing your willpower to build your best potential.

If you have any questions or would like to add to our willpower post, feel free to discuss below. We'd love to interact with you!

Until next time legion, keep crushing your goals!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.

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