By Paloma Cantero-Gomez
Willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success. It predicts academic performance more robustly than IQ. It reassures individuals with healthy doses of self-esteem and self-confidence. It empowers with a sense of ownership and responsibility for our own lives avoiding the space for unproductive excuses. It basically allows people to design and achieve their best life and become their best version.
Studies on willpower were quite scarce before the mid-sixties. Psychologists were considering it as part of the so-called self-regulation but there was not great focus on it. As of the famous marshmallows experiment conducted at Standford Univerity, scientists started conducting tests in order to figure out how to strengthen self-regulatory skills.
By 1980s willpower started to be understood as a learnable skill that can be tough to kids the same way than maths. However, on the mid-nineties, a group of psychologists at Case Western start wondering why if willpower is a skill, it doesn’t remain constant from day to day making the performance of the same tasks sometimes more difficult than others. In order to answer this question, they conducted an experiment based on chocolate cookies and radishes that end up with the realization that willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs that get tired as it works harder, so there is less power left over for other things. There is thus, a great piece of truth on the advice of starting the day always performing the important stuff while leaving the ‘urgent’ one for later whenever willpower has become to fade.
But, will exercising willpower muscles make also them stronger the same way spinning strengthen quadriceps? Conclusions of the experiment conducted in 2006 by two Australian researchers confirm so. After two months of enrolling two dozen people in a physical exercise program, they scrutinized participants lives and realized that increased willpower at the gym resulted in greater willpower at home. Once willpower becomes stronger, it touches everything!
“Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear ” (Dan Millman). Strong willpower requires strong exercise. The better we train our will the more capable we will make it as to achieve great things.
Successful people are very much aware of the work and dedication behind every step forward. They also now that big achievements are built on the basis of very small ones attained on daily basis. These are the basic early morning routines that highly successful people used to strengthen their willpower.
1. They set up their alarm clock every day at the same time
(Yes! Especially on weekends and days off)
By getting up at the same time every day, your circadian rhythm (or body clock) will stabilize, helping your productivity to raise improving your sleep and decreasing possible insomnia and sleep deprivation. It is also scientifically proven that it reduces your caffeine dependence, improves alertness, sharpens your focus and short-term memory, decreases your irritability and pain, improves your mood and your immune system functioning and helps you with a better safety and job performance.
But above all is the best way to start your day with the conscious choice of exercising and strengthening your willpower. Overcoming the body in its natural tendency to pursue the warm and peace of the bed sheets is one of the biggest little battles that will ensure that your willpower is fully operational and ready for a great day of conquest.
2. They start the day with a couple of minutes for meditation
The act of meditating causes the pituitary gland in your brain to secrete endorphins enhancing activity in the area of your brain that is associated with positive emotions and experiences. It is proven to help you to combat anxiety and the “busy mind” syndrome as well as to improve pain tolerance.
There are many physical and psychical benefits of meditation none of them compared with the great opportunity that brings to strengthen willpower. Devoting your firsts thoughts of the day to understand the world as it is, accepting what you can not change, fighting for what it should be improved, and bringing your life into a well-oriented perspective will give your willpower the right motivation to be exercised. When we visualized how our hard work and sacrifices are a needed part on the construction of our best life, they simply become the right thing to do and makes the effort much easier and joyful.
3. They establish a routine of morning workouts
Regular physical activity can increase the production of hormones that make you feel happier and help you sleep better. It has also a positive impact on your skin’s appearance, weight control and lessens the risk of chronic disease. Morning workouts are clearly good for your body and your soul.
Doesn’t mind if you are a top business professional or a stay-home mum. Starting your day with a tailored routine of workouts will improve your willpower helping the “important stuff” winning the battle to the “urgent one”. Because we live in a stressful environment and have thousands of others things to do it is crucial to exercise our willpower by making space for those things that normally we do not have a moment for. It is not about the time you will invest or the calories you will burn. It is about the conscious decision of making space to what helps us to become better from a holistic perspective.
4. They sit down for breakfast with the family
Finding the right time to gather people we love around the table during morning rush hours will help you to take distance from stress and value what really matters. Starting the day prioritizing people over things and right perspective over inertia will take some effort but pay you back. Additionally, it usually leads to a much healthier diet and lifestyle as well as work performance.
5. They devote some time for self-learning
There is always some space left for a book in our working bag. Lifelong learning is the new school and personal development a life target. We do not know all. Actually, we know very little. Doesn’t mind the time it takes you to get to work or bring the kids to school, this is the perfect moment to squizz some minutes for self-learning. No excuses!
6. They say good morning to people in their way to work
One of the biggest efforts that our willpower could be asked for is to choose others before us. It is somehow easy to exercise, meditate or learn something new when we know it has a good impact on our bodies and minds. But it becomes much harder when we are asked to put our efforts on doing something without a single visible direct benefit for us. However, it is by lifting others that we riseuccessful people know that if others are left behind there is no success but just money, fame or power.
Granted a smiley good morning to all those that cross their ways on our road to work is a great exercise to design our day with more than just ourselves in perspective.
7. They start their working day by writing a To-Do list
And once you finally reach your workplace, sit down, relax and enjoy the day! Preparing a clear list of ambitious but realistic “To Does” is the only way to successfully manage your 24 hours ensuring little level of stress and high levels of performance. It will clearly exercise your willpower that will have to choose the order of your priorities on the basis of importance and regardless personal taste or propensity to one or another task. It will clearly help you to prioritize the important over the urgent and to better drive your energy to the materialization of the best possible version of your day.
All these little actions that seem so insignificant are however of a great value. Because, they are totally avoidable, choosing to perform them would be an everyday choice for better that will have a great impact on the positive exercise of our willpower. If we choose for better we become better. And it is in the little things where successful people build their strength.
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This content was originally published by Forbes Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Forbes Magazine