How To Unlock Unlimited Willpower

Neuroscientific insights to hack your decision-making.

With each decision, willpower has a role to play — Picture by Pixources

One can make a strong case about willpower being finite or not. Either way, the discussion would end-up revolving around decision-making. The outcome of a situation is a process that starts with making a decision.

In fact, whenever we are facing a scenario such as “fries or salad”, “workout or Netflix”, or “responding to a text or ignoring it”, we find ourselves tapping into our willpower to make a decision.

In that sense, improving our decision-making mechanism is correlated to our willpower. The following three stages will walk you through shifting your default decision-making. It starts with acting on your willpower.

🔹 Stage 1: The willpower workout

There is a strong theory about willpower being a muscle that can be reinforced. The idea consists in training your discipline gears to grant them better performance and endurance. For instance, to decrease my sugar intake, I started by progressively reducing the amount I put in my hot drinks. It is a daily exercise that stimulates my willpower throughout repeatedly making the decision of putting one sugar cube instead of two.

Just like any other muscle, rest and refuel are a part of the training. In that regard, my technique has been to afford a wildcard day without any sugar consumption limits.
This kind of reset manoeuvers works thanks to the rewarding system. It is the part of the brain which releases happiness and satisfaction hormones after fulfilling a goal or a challenge. It is also the one that motivates you in the first place.
With that said, The reward mechanism is not coated with common sense. It is your responsibility to be conscious and clever about picking the rewards.
In hindsight, It would have been smarter from me to spend my savings from reducing my overall sugar intake on a monthly dinner in a fancy restaurant.

Furthermore, in the quest of enhancing your willpower, a gradually increasing level of difficulty is required. Think of it this way: if you keep on lifting the same weight every day, you will hit a plateau. In other words, no challenge equals no muscle growth.
In my case, upon cutting sugar from my hot drinks, I tackled my consumption of ice-tea and soft drinks.

🔹 Stage 2: The decision-making shift

Over time and with practice, the willpower muscle grows stronger. As we stack more good decisions, we unlock more satisfaction. This virtuous cycle upholds the process and encourages us to go further.
In the meantime, our first challenges become easier to fulfill.

In my situation, I progressively felt less frustration to deter myself from jumping on the vending machine. Besides, it took lesser and lesser efforts over the days. Funnily enough, enjoying sparkling water during my breaks slowly became the default.

In fact, whenever the brain gets used to any task, it rewires itself to get better at doing it. Step by step, it consumes less energy and less time. That would translate into “willpower amplification”. Finally, that repeated task becomes the primary behavior. Put differently, the task becomes automated with no conscious active decision-making required. The science behind it is called neuroplasticity.

In other words, daily repetition progressively shapes new standards that redesign your behavior. When it comes to default behaviors, your decision-making is automatically handled by your subconscious mind. Thus, your willpower is no longer invested.

🔹 Stage 3: The expansion

The patterns described beforehand apply to almost any kind of behavior.

However, it is fairly easy to get overhyped and to want more results as soon as possible. Usually, it translates into shattering efforts in multiple directions. This generates hardships and makes the process of automating the decision-making difficult to maintain. I experienced it when I tried to read 5 pages and listen to 1 hour of podcast per day. I failed to uphold the combo.

I realized that to do two things at once is to do neither. The expansion implicates starting somewhere then spreading.
For that matter, decomposing my new self-education routine into two separate habits made it smoother. I added the reading after 4 months of daily audiobook sessions.

Shifting your decision-making is manifested via setting daily routines. Implementing habits works better when it is done one at a time.
It is about playing the long game. So keep in mind that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step and that patience is a form of action.

🔸 In short:

Training our willpower muscle through consistent challenges allows us to intervene actively and consciously in our decision-making.
Habit implementation is the most effective technique in shifting our decision-making. First, we shape our habits, then our habits shape our decisions.
Once a behavior becomes a part of who we are, it no longer requires willpower.

📚 Sources

“Innercise” by John Assaraf— boo
“The Code of the Extraordinary Mind” by
Vishen Lakhiani— book
“The 5 AM Club” by
Robin Sharma— book
“Impact Theory” hosted by
Tom Bilyeu— Podcast
Personal experience

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Psychology | Business | Marketing — When I’m not reading, I’m writing

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