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Willpower as a Key to Goal Attainment

Willpower actually has three faces, according to Kelly Mc Gonigal,  author of the Willpower Instinct.  There is “I Will Power”,  “I Won’t Power” and “I Want Power.”  Every willpower challenge requires doing something difficult, or taking a path that is opposite what we usually do, or what might be most tempting.  Meeting goals require a significant amount of willpower and it requires that the prefrontal cortex of the brain is very active.

The 3 regions of the PFC corresponding to each type of will power are:

1.  The upper left side of the PFC specializes in “I Will.”  It helps you move forward with or stick to difficult, boring, or stressful tasks.

2. The right side of the PFC specializes in “I Won’t”.  It helps you resist temptations and cravings.

3. The “I Want” region is in the middle and it keeps track of goals and desires.

The prefrontal cortex is the most sophisticated and energy consuming part of the brain.  In order or the prefrontal cortex to serve us well, it needs adequate glucose through the foods we eat, sleep, and training via meditation and other mindful practices.   In addition, it needs external support by way of removing external distractions, clear definition of goals, and encouragement from others including family, friends, and coaches.

Here are a few ways you can boost your willpower when it is being tested:

1.  Immediately boost willpower by slowing breath to 4-6 breaths per minute.  That is approximately 10-15 seconds per breath.

2. Increase willpower by stepping outside for fresh air and a “green break.”

3. Take a refreshing power nap.  Even 10-20 minutes can restore and re-energize the PFC.

4. Use imagery to address a craving. Temptation is like a wave on the ocean.   Rather than battle it the temptation, allow it to crest like a wave and dissolve gently into the shoreline.

5. Remove distractions and temptation.  Nothing can drain the PFC more than expending it’s energy trying to resist temptations that are in your immediate environment!  Think of it as running in place but not moving anywhere!

There are many other ways understanding the nature of willpower can help you reach your goals.  Stay tuned to future blogs where you will learn more about this topic and how it can help you uncover personal potential.



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