How to develop and strengthen willpower in yourself: tips on how to develop self-discipline

When one Olympic champion was asked which of her rivals she considered the most dangerous, she replied: “My main rival has always been myself.” Buddha Shakyamuni said about the same thing: “Conquer yourself and you will win thousands of battles.”

Olympic and professional sports are a brutal meat grinder, so willpower is demonstrated there like nowhere else, and athletes who have dozens of competitions behind them know better than anyone else what willpower is and how to develop it. Another thing is that they waste their potential on some illusory titles and awards, but that’s another topic. And yet it should be recognized: sport contributes to the development of willpower. But this is hardly the only advantage of such a phenomenon as professional sports. And there are dozens of minuses.

At the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, judoka Dmitry Nosov suffered a broken arm in the pre-final bout. At the same time, he refused to withdraw from the competition and entered the final fight. Having fought with a broken arm (!), he won and became a bronze medalist, showing the whole world what it means to step beyond human capabilities. All the doctors present at this competition unanimously stated that this was impossible without the use of painkillers. Dmitry Nosov was tested twice immediately after the fight for the presence of drugs, and both times the result was negative. This is a clear example of the fact that there are no barriers to willpower. And if a person has motivation, all obstacles simply cease to exist. Such stern determination and in a creative direction...

What it is

Essentially, it is the ability to solve problems and cope with assigned tasks. It determines how quickly you can take action, give up bad habits and develop useful ones. Making volitional decisions is relevant in all areas of life.

To understand how this works, you can figuratively imagine determination as a muscle in the human body. Like others, she needs regular training. This is the only way it will function effectively. Without the necessary work, any muscle tissue simply atrophies.

Use the 2 minute rule

Whenever you find it difficult to force yourself to do something, tell yourself: “I will only do this for 2 minutes.” You've probably noticed that starting to do something is the most difficult part of the task. Once things get moving, the going becomes much easier. Instead of telling yourself how much you don't want to do something, make an initial effort to do one small piece of work. It’s easier to decide on something small than something big. Read one page of a book or run one lap of a stadium.

There is a 90% chance that you will continue your activity after the first 2 minutes. At the very least, it will be much easier to decide on the next step. By moving a heavy steel ball from its place, it is easier to maintain the movement rather than stop it. The 2-minute rule is a great way to overcome the first and most difficult barrier of procrastination: getting started.

What is it for?

Imagine that you want to lose weight for the upcoming summer season. You are driven by an intention (to eliminate unhealthy high-calorie foods from your diet), based on the desire to look good, wear beautiful fashionable clothes, and have good health.

This desire will be actively resisted by the habit of enjoying sweets and fatty foods, and the inability to resist temptations. The final result will depend on whether you manage to understand how to develop discipline and train your willpower. To lose weight, it is very important to adhere to a certain diet, cope with sudden attacks of hunger, and be able to refuse to buy sweets and other unhealthy foods.

The whole process is like a tug of war. On the one hand, this is a global task (to lose weight), on the other hand, there is an almost uncontrollable desire to eat to capacity.

It is an endless struggle between primitive desires and the desire for more. If a person can figure out how to train and increase willpower, he can effectively resist lower-level impulses in any situation. With low determination, it is very difficult to overcome your own weaknesses.

#4 - Perseverance

Persistence is a strong-willed quality of a person’s character, which has something in common with stubbornness. Quality can be seen through the example of training.

In order to assimilate the material you have studied, you will have to return to it often and repeat it for some time. Only a persistent person is able to return to old textbooks in conditions of a catastrophic lack of time, when new material is on the heels.

It is difficult to instill perseverance in learning in childhood. It develops with age. But the child’s persistence manifests itself in other moments, for example, in requests to buy something.

Is it possible to figure out how to cultivate discipline and strengthen willpower?

Quite. Determination can be developed even in the most neglected situations. No matter how weak a person is, he can learn to control his desires.

Have you noticed how sometimes someone you know changes dramatically? For example, there is a young man from the next apartment - Petya. Absent-mindedness, inability to organize one's time and laziness are his calling cards. He gets bored with any work in the shortest possible time, he doesn’t want to do anything, he doesn’t set any goals for himself, he just drinks, smokes and has fun with friends. After some time, Petya is expelled from the institute, demoted at work, and for the last six months he has not looked his best. The worst thing is that he doesn’t seem to notice these changes. He continues to drink beer, lying on the couch in front of the TV, and enjoying doing nothing.

But at some point everything suddenly turns upside down. Petya suddenly starts running in the morning, takes up his studies with renewed vigor, greets people at the entrance, never ceasing to smile radiantly. Now he looks good, drunken parties with dubious friends no longer tempt him. At work they noticed his diligence and promoted him, and last week all the neighbors were discussing the brand new car he bought.

This is a familiar situation, isn't it? And all because a person set a goal and was able to understand how to cultivate willpower, develop character and develop self-discipline. This does not require any special abilities or superpowers. It is enough to realize the mistakes you make every day and start fighting them.

Psychologist Daria Milai

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Weakness is a learned form of behavior

“As a child, all the decisions were made for me: who to be friends with, what to wear, what toys to play with, where to go for walks. Any attempts I made to object or do something on my own were harshly suppressed. I only heard that “good children do not contradict adults”, “parents know best”, and also the constant word “should”. My opinion simply did not exist. In the end, I came to terms with it. But I dreamed that one day I would grow up and everything would be different: I would no longer be so soft, I would not be humiliated, I would not feel inferior.

And so I grew up and even got married, but has anything changed? Of course not. My wife doesn’t listen to me, she makes all the decisions, even the children don’t take me seriously. Colleagues “ride me”, constantly make fun of me, my opinion on work issues also does not matter. It’s even more offensive that friends feel the same way. When they have problems, I am always there, but if I need help, no one has time for me.

I often feel useless, the meaninglessness of my life, disappointed with my own worthlessness. I know that I myself allow people to behave this way with me, that I am henpecked, that I must be able to refuse. Every evening I promise myself that tomorrow I will start a new life and force others to respect me. But a new day comes - and again I go with the flow. I don’t understand how to deal with my softness.”

— Victor, suffers from weakness of will

This story is a classic example of weakness of will. It clearly shows how the problem develops: from childhood a person gets used to the fact that other people decide everything for him, but he himself is not able to influence his life. Having matured, he transfers this model of behavior to all areas of life. We will discuss other reasons that may lead to the development of the problem below.

The good news is that this can be changed. Weakness is a learned form of behavior, and by correcting it, you can regain control over your life and the respect of others.

The wisdom and stupidity of our body

The complex structure of the body implies the participation of mental activity in absolutely all processes occurring in it. The lack of influence of the mind will inevitably lead to numerous “breakdowns”.

For example, a smoker’s body, under the influence of nicotine, produces substances responsible for pleasure, and addiction occurs. When a person tries to give up another cigarette, he begins to experience discomfort. After all, the persistent desire to smoke is nothing more than the body’s demand to resume chemical metabolism. No sensible arguments about harm to health and mortal danger have any effect on him. He continues to want another dose of the poisonous substance. Just like water or food, which are truly important for life.

That is, the body asks, but the person himself decides whether to satisfy its demands or to abstain. How to improve and increase willpower in order to more effectively resist harmful signals from within? This can only be done by an established personality who is aware of his actions. Success depends on your attitude and willingness to constantly work on yourself.

Make your biology work for you

You've probably heard about the existence of so-called biological rhythms - cyclical changes in the human body at certain periods of time. There are annual, monthly and other rhythms. However, we are interested in circadian ones - those associated with daily fluctuations in biological activity.

Each person has their own peaks of activity, and, accordingly, their willpower capabilities. For some it is easier to work in the morning, for others in the afternoon. Do a little research. Keep a diary and note how you feel throughout the day. After some time, you will discover certain patterns - at some hours you work worse, at others - better. You can do the same research for the days of the week.

Now you can change your plans according to biorhythms. Set the most difficult tasks that require maximum willpower at a time when your activity will be highest.

Why do you need training?

Regularly indulging our primitive desires, we eventually acquire bad habits. One after another ad infinitum. The more often we demonstrate weakness of character and allow ourselves not to resist impulses, the more they rise above us. This is very similar to drug addiction, which is extremely difficult to get rid of.

It is difficult for a lazy person to control himself and control his actions. Just thinking about the need to pave the way, he is already afraid of not coping with the task.

That is why the body needs to be trained, kept under control, and not allowed to relax. There are many recommendations and exercises for developing willpower, thanks to which you will be able to gain the desired independence.


Our physiology has a huge impact on our mental state, including our willpower reserves. So take care of your body - get enough sleep, eat healthy foods and make time for physical activity. Study your biorhythms and plan your day according to them. Meditate - just 10-15 minutes of this practice will bring about long-term changes in your willpower. Introduce healthy habits - this will allow you to put many energy-consuming actions on automatic. Pay attention to the things around you - are they distracting you from the task at hand? Use the 2-minute rule to overcome resting inertia and solve problems in parts.

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Key words:1Psychoregulation, 3Psychoregulation

Are the desires of our body so important?

Many people believe that purposefully denying yourself the satisfaction of needs is prohibitively difficult. In reality this is not the case. People are often sensitive to their small pleasures, turning them into significant ones that they cannot do without. In fact, it only seems so.

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It's the same with our body. If he is raised correctly, all his primitive needs will lose their significance. And this does not mean at all that one should renounce primary desires, turning into a monk following the path of the spirit. You need to know moderation in everything and learn to be a master and not a slave. Everyone should know how to gain and develop willpower.

Show yourself compassion

Contrary to popular belief, there is ample evidence that self-compassion works much better than self-criticism when dealing with failure or not achieving a certain goal.

In a study conducted at a women's college, researchers divided participants into two groups and asked each group to eat a donut from a plate. Then the experimenters talked to one of the groups. They told the participants phrases that went something like the following: “I hope you don’t find it difficult to eat these donuts. Everyone eats unhealthy food sometimes. All participants in this study eat donuts.” Later, participants were asked to eat some chocolate. And the group that was treated earlier consumed much less sweets than the control group.

People who practice self-compassion tend to be more willing to admit and learn from their mistakes, and to address their weaknesses.

When we realize that failing is a normal part of our lives and that we can learn from them, it will be easier to bounce back from setbacks and make positive changes.

How to develop

We have already given an analogy with muscles. Regular training is necessary for their development. Successfully resisting momentary impulses strengthens them and makes them strong. Passive indulgence turns you into a flabby, weak-willed mass.

It's better to start small

It’s like going to the gym for the first time, immediately taking on the most difficult exercises, overworking yourself and losing the desire to exercise for the rest of your life. It’s right to start with simple ones, let the muscles adapt to the new rhythm. You can't try to do everything at once. This way you will only harm yourself and your health.

Advice from psychologists on developing and training willpower should also be followed step by step. Because it is too difficult for an unprepared person to cover all the recommendations at once. Don't overestimate your capabilities and try to jump over your head.

Review your daily routine

Following a certain regime, only at first glance, is regarded as something insignificant, not worthy of attention. In fact, this is the main platform, the base on which a new worldview will be built.

Give up meaningless actions, concentrate on what will be useful.

Train yourself to get up early

Get rid of the habit of lying in bed until lunch. Try to get up at the same time every day. The beginning of a new day is a crucial moment. If, instead of getting up when you need to, you continue to sleep, the volitional muscle does not begin to act. It is very difficult to get rid of the laziness that you succumb to in the morning until the evening. It is much better to cope with momentary weakness and, despite the body’s protest, go towards a new day.

Eat right

A lack of useful microelements and vitamins leads to impaired cognitive functions. Performance decreases, memory deteriorates, etc. Healthy food is very important for the effective functioning of the human body. Eating the right foods helps normalize weight and supply the body with nutrients. How to acquire and increase willpower? Often this is impossible without switching to proper nutrition.


A physically active person thinks much better. If it remains in a static state for a long time, the brain gradually begins to fall asleep. That's why it's easy to doze off in public transport or during a boring lecture. If the body is in motion, blood circulation increases and mental activity reaches maximum activity.

Don't waste your time on nonsense

Or limit it if possible. You should not do something meaningless, like watching TV or hanging out on social networks. Better get into the habit of reading more. An excellent solution would be to regularly walk in the fresh air. In a word - improve yourself, develop.

Keep your promises to yourself

Get into the habit of making promises to yourself. Instead of: “I need to vacuum the carpet!”, say to yourself: “I promise to clean the apartment before evening.” Otherwise, you are much more likely to spend the whole day doing nonsense and not getting to the task.

Sleep normally

A prerequisite for motivating willpower is the quality of sleep. It is necessary to sleep at night, when our body is truly tuned to rest and restore energy. Remember that lack of sleep has an extremely negative effect on your condition. A brain that has not received the necessary unloading within 7 - 8 hours will not work as it should.

Drink enough fluids

Water is vital for humans. It is simply impossible to concentrate efforts if there is a lack of it. Even slight dehydration can negatively affect mental performance. For normal functioning, the body requires at least 8 glasses daily. It would be even better to increase this dose by one and a half to two times.


Self-awareness can really be trained through meditation. It will also have a positive effect on the ability to concentrate, abstract and control oneself. By applying simple breathing control techniques in practice, it will not be difficult to concentrate on solving the tasks at hand.

Practice: a five-minute brain training exercise

Regular exercise helps people get rid of bad habits much faster and more painlessly. Simple short meditation will definitely be beneficial.

  • Sit on a chair, keep your back straight, put your hands on your knees. Sit quietly, do not twitch or fidget. Stillness is a prerequisite for achieving the desired result.
  • Concentrate on your breathing. You can close your eyes or focus your gaze on a specific point. As you breathe, silently say “inhale” and “exhale.” As soon as you realize that you are distracted and immersed in your thoughts, again focus on breathing actions.
  • Notice sensations and thoughts. After a while, stop pronouncing the words and just breathe. Feel the flow of air that penetrates and leaves your lungs. At this stage of training, you work on self-knowledge, learn what willpower is and learn to control your actions.

Don't neglect hygiene, put things in order

Don't forget to wash your face, brush your teeth, shave and bathe. After all, cleanliness is the key to health. The rule works for people of all ages. Do not try to evade under any circumstances.

Ask a question

Keep your house in order. Clean floors and dishes, order on the shelves in the closet and on the table - should be by definition. Clean your computer sometimes too. Delete unnecessary files, do not accumulate unnecessary information.

Get rid of bad habits

Realize that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and smoking are very harmful. By indulging in these weaknesses, you cannot learn willpower. Believe me, the degradation and triumph of primitive desires before clarity of thought is otherwise inevitable.


Meditation is a great way to increase your willpower. Long enough practice also improves concentration, self-awareness and reduces stress levels.

What is equally important is that meditation does not require a lot of time and lengthy preparation. Just a few minutes a day can already have a fairly noticeable effect.

It does not require the conditions of a Buddhist monastery to be effective.

Sit comfortably in a suitable place in your home, close your eyes and try to clear your head of unnecessary thoughts. This will be very difficult at first - at least try not to focus on one of them for too long. Let them flow freely through your brain. Listen to the sensations in your body, to your breathing, relax all your muscles - this will allow you to concentrate on your inner world.

Many studies show changes after 8 weeks of short daily meditations. Spend 10 to 15 minutes every day and you won't be disappointed with the results.

Postpone pleasures

Our brain insists on meeting needs right here and now. The prospects looming somewhere in the distance to gain slimness, financial independence, good health, a successful life - do not seem so important. Because of this, we constantly succumb to temptations - we neglect our diet, spend large sums on trinkets, and irrationally distribute our free time.

Try to be patient a little. Delay the moment of getting what you want for 10 minutes. This is quite a bit, but during this period your consciousness will “reconsider priorities” and will be more likely to make the right decision.

Eliminate unnecessary decisions

Have you ever wondered how many decisions you make on a typical day? From the simple ones, like what to drink with lunch, to the most important or complex ones, like negotiating that big sale you want to pull off. What about a week or a month?

Researchers at Cornell University estimate that we make about 200 decisions a day regarding food and drink choices alone, although most of them remain subconscious. Their total number seems gigantic. And each of them (primarily conscious) requires its own portion of willpower. Limit the number of decisions you make to focus on the ones that really matter.

Pre-planning is a very good way to minimize unnecessary dilemmas. In order to schedule your day hourly, you will need no more than 10-15 minutes. In the future, you will not painfully go through different options for action and will be less likely to commit an impulsive emotional act. You already have a route map - just follow it.


Having understood the definition of what willpower means, it’s time to learn how to train it. Take note of a couple of simple ways:

  • Start your actions from the “I won’t” position. Try not to use strong words in your speech, do not swing your leg while sitting, do not wrap your hair around your fingers, etc.
  • Make it a rule to pronounce the expression “I will” and live up to it. Every day, set aside time for meditation, take a contrast shower, walk, etc.

By performing these simple tasks every day, you can strengthen your self-control, ability to concentrate, and resist momentary impulses.

Why am I doing this?

Motivation is what fuels willpower in the first place and is its strong foundation. If you don’t understand why you should do something, then it’s not surprising that you will shirk every time, and no exercises, tricks or life hacks will help you.

Therefore, start developing willpower from the main thing. Take time to figure out the goals you want to achieve in life and in the short term. By the way, in our opinion, this topic is described very well in J. Canfield’s book “A Whole Life.” Once you understand your goals and the actions you need to take to achieve them, it will be easier for you to activate your willpower.

It's even better if you paint a vivid picture in your head of how you will look, think and feel when you achieve your goal. Imagine it before your eyes every time you are tempted to deviate from your chosen path, and you will be able to resist. Let your willpower become better day by day by your conscious choice, and not by the influence of life's blows and circumstances. Remember your goals and never give up. As Michael Jordan said, “You're not a loser until you give up.”

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