Build Your Willpower Muslce | Undergrad Success

How to Build Willpower

How to Build Willpower
Avatar photo

What does willpower mean to you?

  • Resisting that piece of cake? You know … the double chocolate with chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles one that is just calling your name.
  • Long hours studying for your exam? Only AFTER spending the previous 8-hours in a classroom.
  • Working 40 hours a week in a ‘regular’ job? THEN tack on 40 more hours for your side-hustle.

Willpower comes in various forms. What if I told you that the key to studying longer AND resisting chocolate cake AND applying yourself more fully to your passion was as simple as brushing your teeth in the morning?

Mind = Blown, right?
Willpower is great in that you get more out of it than what you put in. Willpower can be applied to just one area, like brushing your teeth, but the benefits are experienced holistically.

Willpower is a muscle that grows stronger as it is utilized.

Four types of willpower

Impulse Control — the most widely used type of willpower. It stops us from making rash decisions.
I will go to the grocery store and only buy the things on my list.

Thought Control — the ability to convince ourselves that an idea is either good or bad. It can also be used to suppress things, like that song you only know the beginning.
I saw a headline about someone getting E.Coli from lettuce. I better be safe and order a pizza for dinner.

Performance control — the ability to identify important tasks that needs to be done while also blocking out distractions.
I need to start studying for finals–better block Facebook and Reddit on my browsers.

Emotional Control–the control requiring the most amount of your willpower. Generally speaking, you can’t think yourself happy. You have to take action to change an emotion.
Telling my group how angry I am that we all got a B when I did all the work won’t benefit me in the long run (unless we have future projects together), so I must remember to voice my concerns to the group earlier in the future.

As any other muscle, your willpower will suffer from fatigue. This fatigue is called Ego Depletion or Decision Fatigue.

Tips for warding off Decision Fatigue

Eliminate unnecessary decisions
If you’re going out to eat and know that choosing a salad over the chicken alfredo is going to be hard, simply order the salad without asking for the menu. By eliminating all other options, you can more easily order the salad as opposed to you looking through each of the 50+ meal options.

Focus on one thing at a time
At the beginning of every new year, gyms are hoarded with people beginning the same New Years Resolution they made last year, and the year before.

Surprising statistic — 88% of New Years Resolutions fail


Because the resolution is too big to handle all at once. Many people set themselves up for failure that they haven’t yet learned to bounce back from.

The ability to work out five days a week, drop all unhealthy foods/drinks from your diet, and taking the stairs over the elevator takes immeasurable amounts of self-discipline and willpower. Take small steps. Build the muscle. Focus on creating habit in the long run.

Quick Tip: Alleviate stress and anxiety by creating to-do lists. Your mind will see the task as it is en route to completion.

Recharge your batteries
Willpower fatigues faster if you’re already tired. Replenish your lost energy by taking a break from homework, grabbing something to eat, or going for a brief walk. Maintain a healthy diet, high in protein and slow digesting carbs, and you’ll be able to feed your willpower for longer. Stay away from sugars. They zap your energy and brain power.

Develop habits
This is the best way to combat decision fatigue and strengthen that willpower muscle. One is able to translate the successful self discipline in one area to other more difficult areas. As habits become routine, they move from the part of a brain responsible for short-term memory to the area handling long-term memory. This means the task will actually require more willpower to not perform than it would to just do it.

Remember. Willpower is a muscle. Treat it accordingly. It will become stronger as you utilize it more; but it will also fatigue with use. Recharge and look forward to a more improved you.

What are your experiences and tips? Let us know on our Facebook page or Tweet me!


Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Avatar photo

Jessica is a social media enthusiast working in the user experience and customer experience optimization industry. You can find her on Twitter (@Jessabahr) or talking about technology news and mobile-first app design on the Internet Pandas podcast. She has a background in process engineering and graduated with a degree in Integrated Supply Chain Management from the University of Wisconsin - Platteville, School of Business.

More in Personal

10 Quotes to Jump-Start Your Success

Samuel HershbergerJune 21, 2024

Choose Your Own Adventure: Passion or Paycheck?

Harper YiMay 26, 2024

10 Things That Must Be Said in Every Job Interview

YouTernMay 20, 2024

The Zen of Staying Accountable: 3 Quick Tips to Help

Ariel LopezApril 22, 2024

Overworked and Under-Appreciated? 6 Tips to Help You Work Smarter

YouTernApril 12, 2024

How to sustain the learning from your summer job or internship (Part 1)

David ShindlerApril 9, 2024