Increase Willpower by Simplifying

15 December 2021

This week, I wanted to share some insights into an important study in understanding how we can give ourselves the greatest chance of achieving our goals. The study explored aspects of how our brains work, how it affects willpower and how that, in turn, will impact how successful we are going to be. 

After all, the New Year is coming up and even though those of us who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than those who don’t, around 80% of people have abandoned their goals entirely by February.

So, how do you become one of the minority who achieves their goals year on year? The answer is in understanding how your brain works and how to nurture and utilise your willpower.

A piece of cake

A study was conducted with a class of undergraduates, where they were split into two groups. One group was asked to memorise a two-digit number whilst the second group was asked to memorise a seven-digit number. Both groups were asked to go out and take a walk in the hall and when they came back, they were offered a slice of cake and a bowl of fruit if they felt like a refreshment. Surprisingly, the group that had to memorise the seven-digit number were twice as likely to pick up a slice of cake than the bowl of fruit.

What Makes Willpower So Important?

When you have to achieve goals within your business, you will need willpower. The part of the brain that is responsible for that willpower is located directly behind your forehead, in the frontal cortex. This part of the brain is also responsible for short-term memory to keep you focused, to give you strong willpower, to deal with abstract information and make it more granular.

Generally, when you are setting your goal, if it’s not specific enough, it might be too abstract or too much, cognitive overload occurs. When that happens, willpower suffers.

Abstract vs. Reality

Going forward, if you are committed to achieving your business or personal goals – the distinction that you need to make for yourself is, rather than focusing on a vague overall goal, you need to focus on some very simple, specific behaviours. This will help your brain to increase that willpower to support you in achieving the goal.

A practical example of this is if you are aiming to lose weight, you might tell yourself:

“I have to eat healthier and do more exercise”

Instead, try keeping it simple and explicit. You could tell yourself:

“I need to go out for a 30-minute walk every day, after dinner”

This increases the chances of you being strong and having stronger willpower as the goal is not so ambiguous.

Read more about how being specific in your goals can help your team to achieve new heights with the 1% goal.

If you would like to discuss any of the points covered here, please feel free to request a free call below.


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