10 tips to boost your willpower

Dr Frank Ryan, a clinical psychologist and author of Willpower for Dummies, explains his top 10 tips to improve your self-control and boost your willpower.

1 Reward the effort 

Resisting crisps or chocolate with your lunch all week demands a lot of willpower, which can make it frustrating if tips to boost your willpower you don’t lose weight. Feel proud of your effort – remember, it has strengthened your willpower.

A marathon medal, running number and trainers

2 Believe in yourself 

Self-confidence is key. If you believe you can finish a five-mile run and you can imagine yourself on the podium with a medal, then you’re less likely to give up. 

3 Clarify your goals 

Work out what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there – otherwise it’s like searching for treasure without a map. Planning in advance can help you focus, and there are plenty of apps to help monitor your progress. 

Woman writing down her goals in a notebook

4 Develop a routine 

If you’re busy, establish a routine to ensure you make the time for exercise, and stock up on healthy meals and snacks ahead of time, rather than grabbing a takeaway. 

5 Build up slowly

Overdoing it erodes willpower and sets you up to fail. You could call this ‘the tortoise and the hare syndrome’. Take gradual small steps to change your diet or build up your fitness regime

A calendar to make healthy plans in

6 Choose the right time

Willpower is a limited resource, so if you’re expending lots of energy moving house or studying, you might be setting yourself up to fail if you try to give up smoking at the same time. However, it can be easier to change habits when you’re out of your old routine, so if you’ve just moved house it could be a good time to start an exercise regime or healthy diet. 

7 Be kind to yourself

If you’re trying to quit smoking, it’s likely you’ll have one or two cigarettes before you succeed, but don’t go crazy blaming yourself – be kind to yourself. 

A woman getting a massage as a treat

8 Treat yourself

If you’re eating in a restaurant in January, it’s hard to motivate yourself by thinking about looking good on your summer holiday, because it’s so far away. Little rewards along the way – the non-calorific type – can work better. 

9 Get support 

Whether it’s from friends and family, or joining a running club, a bit of cheerleading can be the difference between failure and success. Even saying your goals out loud can make them clearer. 

Runners getting support from a cheering crowd at a race

10 Avoid temptation

If, like Oscar Wilde, you ‘can resist anything except temptation’, the best tactic is to stay away from it. If you love sticky buns, avoid the bakery. If you crave cigarettes with a drink, cut out pub visits until you’ve beaten the habit. 

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