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How To Build Your Willpower and Self-Control

Updated on January 17th, 2022
Helps you achieve a healthy work-life balance

Willpower can be the difference between success and failure in any area of your life. Diet, exercise, smoking- they all come down to being in total control. Business is no different- it takes a lot of willpower to build a successful one.

Scientists have concluded that willpower is not something we have an infinite amount of. However, just like any other muscle or skill, you can work on strengthening your willpower. Building your willpower and self-control will help you in business and in your personal life. You’ll have the strength to say no to things that don’t aid you. You’ll be more able to identify the things that do.

Decrease Stress Levels

Stress is the ultimate enemy. It makes us unhealthier, messes with our decision making, and yes, depletes our willpower. When we’re stressed out, energy and brain power we could use for self-control get diverted to feeling stressed. That means we’re more likely to stray from our diets or indulge in a cigarette. We don’t have the willpower left to fight temptation.

Avoid stress when you can. If you feel yourself getting stressed, focus on breathing. A minute of deep breathing can help lower stress levels, and leave you more willpower. You can also create a low-stress work environment. In your office or cubicle, try and have plants, or photos of calming things. Take a break from the screen occasionally and walk around to help decrease stress.

Reframe the Situation

When it comes to willpower, we often cram ourselves into tiny, limiting boxes. We say, ‘I can’t do that.’ I can’t is a limiting statement that puts us in opposition to something else. Instead of saying ‘I can’t’, say ‘I don’t.’ This reframes the situation so that it doesn’t feel like a restriction. Rather, it becomes a way for you to take the power into your own hands. You’re choosing to turn something down of your own free will. You have the strength and ability to say no.

This is an easy way to boost your willpower. You’re training your own brain to say no to things, and being rewarded with a mental boost. That small boost will keep you saying no again and again, giving you the willpower you need.


Often it’s the most simple things that have the biggest effect. Eating is one of those. Exercising self-control depletes our glucose levels. We’re much more likely to cave to temptations when we’re hungry. It’s why you should never grocery shop when you’re hungry- you end up with junk galore and not a vegetable in sight.

Eating is key to maintaining self-control reserves. Keep snacks in your desk and your car if you have one. If you feel your blood sugar crashing, eat something before you make any major decisions.

Wait out Temptation

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to simply ride out the feeling of temptation. We often want things that are in front of our face or on our minds. If we can move away from the area of temptation, or distract ourselves, we’re much more likely to stay strong.

Waiting even just 20 minutes before we make a decision is a great way to retain self-control. Making decisions from an emotional place is never a good idea. This applies to a range of emotions, like anger, sadness, or desire. Wait out your temptation and make the final call when you feel more rational and stable.

Learn From Failure

Inevitably we all fail. It’s a fact of life. Maybe you ended up eating cupcakes for dinner when you swore you were done with sugar. It’s more than ok to fail. What’s important is that you move on from it, and learn something from it.

Wallowing in failure is a dead-end road. There’s nothing there except negativity. Learning from failure propels us forward. Why did you eat those cupcakes? Maybe there was no other food in the house. Maybe you’d had a long day, and they were the first thing you saw when you came home.

The best course of action is to acknowledge that you made a mistake, and move on. Don’t spend hours beating yourself up for eating the cupcakes. That depletes your willpower and your decision making skills. Berating yourself, or hating yourself, creates a failure mindset. If you believe that you can’t succeed, you won’t try and exercise your willpower so that you can succeed.

Willpower and self-control are both things you want to have a firm grasp on. By exercising these muscles, you put yourself in a place where you can continually make sound decisions. With a few tweaks to your routine and habits, you can change your entire lifestyle. You take back control of your life. Try to build your decision-making muscles and see what changes unfold in your life.

Kara Perez

Kara Perez

Kara Perez is the founder of Bravelygo. Kara discovered her love of finances courtesy of her quarter-life crisis. Broke, underemployed and saddled with student loan debt, she realized that her lack of financial education was crippling her adulthood. She now connects individuals with how to save and make money. She freelances in the areas of personal finance.

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