Willpower: a scientific explanation of the process and how to train it

Willpower: what is it?

There are several definitions in psychology.
If you put them together, you get a clear description. So, willpower is the ability to subjugate a person, as well as control emotions and actions. It manifests itself in those moments when there is a need to overcome serious obstacles or fight temptations. In fact, thanks to willpower, you can do something difficult and unrealistic. How to check whether a person is strong-willed or not? Finding out about the presence of quality is quite simple. You need to be honest about whether the following situations have happened:

  1. Important tasks are put off until later or done at the last minute.
  2. There's not enough time for anything. Failure to fulfill duties is explained by ridiculous excuses. One example is young mothers, who often make excuses for having a small child.
  3. Most problems remain unresolved.
  4. Attention is constantly distracted by some little things, for example, communicating on social networks, watching TV, computer games.
  5. Not a single promise I made to myself was kept. This includes the decision to lose weight or, for example, get rid of bad habits.

For those who are faced with these situations, it is time to act. Such people need to quickly and effectively develop willpower.

Signs of will

Psychologists, figuring out and defining what human will is, have formulated three characteristics inherent in this mental trait. The first is the awareness of one's own freedom. A person understands that he is free to do any action. He realizes that there is no predetermination in principle, only he himself determines what behavioral reactions will be.

The sign of will is determinacy of action. This must be objective. Its presence is mandatory. The sign must be present in any action, even if from the outside it seems completely free.

At the same time, volitional behavior is a holistic phenomenon that affects all personal aspects. A person expresses himself through such mental characteristics clearly, completely. Regulation of behavior through will is considered the highest level of mental control.

Developing willpower: is it necessary?

Some will answer this question in the negative. In most cases, these are people who are used to going with the flow and indulging their weaknesses. For them, quality is something unpleasant because it requires acting against desires.

Those who strive to improve their lives will say that it is necessary to cultivate willpower. And it’s better to do this every day.

Generally speaking, weak-willed people have a hard time. Take, for example, cases where a person has been struggling with excess weight for a long time without success. He may mistakenly believe that nothing bad will happen if he eats another piece of cake or sandwich. This shows lack of will. He does not fight his weaknesses, but strives to satisfy them as quickly as possible. The result is a kind of slavery to habits.

"Marshmallow test"

One of the most famous experiments confirming the relationship of willpower with a person’s adaptation in modern society and his success was carried out for about 40 years by the famous psychologist Walter Michel. It began in the 60s of the last century, and final conclusions were formed only in 2006.

The name of the test is very eloquent - “marshmallow”, because it was this delicacy that was used to tempt four-year-old children, testing their ability to control their desires and momentary impulses. The experiment itself was simple and unpretentious - the child was given marshmallows and asked to imagine how tasty and sweet it was. The children had a choice: eat the treat immediately or wait 15 minutes. An indicative test of how much fortitude and willpower have already been formed. As a reward, they were promised an additional portion of marshmallows. At this point, the first stage of the study was completed. Then all that remained was to wait and record important moments in the lives of the participants.

As it turned out in the end, the children who were able to resist temptation and wait for reward in the form of a second piece of marshmallow, confirming that their willpower was excellent, achieved significantly greater heights in life than their peers. In fact, this proved the hypothesis that self-control can safely be considered one of the key factors determining a person’s further success in life.

Continuation of the “marshmallow test”

It would seem, but we can put an end to this - the marshmallow test serves as a more than illustrative example of the importance of self-control. However, later they decided to test it, making the conditions somewhat more complicated. The author of the idea is Celeste Kidd, who works at the University of Rochester.

The new study differed from the “pure marshmallow test” in the presence of preliminary preparation of the subjects. And the children themselves lived in dysfunctional families. Based on the latter, Kidd expected them to fail the treat test, but in this case the key role would be played not by self-control and willpower, but by a natural distrust of adults, due to growing up outside the most pleasant conditions.

Two tests

The preparatory part consisted of a drawing test. In fact, it did not differ significantly from the “marshmallow” one, but instead of a treat, the children were given paper and pencils, with the promise that they would bring markers later, but they would have to wait a little. The choice - to draw or wait - was left to the children. Subsequently, one group was actually given markers, while the second group was apologized to, saying that they would not be there.

Next came the turn of the classic “marshmallow test”. In total, two groups of 14 people each took part. In the first, the participants of which received markers, 9 people waited for the second portion of marshmallows, in the second - 1. From a scientific point of view, such results can hardly be considered a successful refutation of the “marshmallow test”; rather, Kidd demonstrated another important feature of willpower - the relationship with trust. The latter can have both positive and destructive effects.

Is it possible to develop willpower?

Lack of will is easy to correct. Anyone, even the most weak-willed person, can prevail over their weaknesses and desires. It is enough to think about what the absence of this quality will lead to.

Firstly, a person is in a state of constant stress. He doesn’t see the point in acting and doesn’t try to change anything. Secondly, a poor emotional state affects the body. Over time, health problems appear. This concerns the work of internal organs and the nervous system. Added to these are problems with alcohol, drugs, and excess weight.

How to develop willpower and self-discipline? To do this, you need to educate yourself every day by doing a series of simple exercises. After just a few lessons, serious problems will seem not so insurmountable, and dreams not so unattainable.

Strong-willed qualities

Perseverance determines willpower

In order to develop your willpower, you need to place special emphasis on the qualities that determine it. Let's look at what the strong-willed character traits of a person are.

  1. Initiative. By developing it within yourself, you will be able to make and carry out any decisions without external pressure. If a person completes a task without outside reminders, he will definitely achieve success. To develop this quality, you need to identify a business for yourself that will be truly interesting to you. After all, interest is a great incentive. In addition, you also need to develop your creativity and imagination.
  2. Independence. It is important to learn to be independent and not depend on someone else's orders. You can develop it in various fields of activity by working on yourself.
  3. Persistence. Of course, making a decision sometimes requires serious effort. Willpower is determined by how we are able to finish what we start. If you are not sure that you can complete a task on your own, without anyone’s help, that you will give it up halfway, it is better to immediately refuse to complete it. Accustom yourself to the fact that every task you undertake must be brought to final completion.
  4. Self-control and self-control. To have a strong will, you need to learn to overcome your external and internal difficulties, to rid yourself of such qualities as fear and indecision. If you have self-control, you will be able to protect yourself from rash and impulsive actions, and learn to regulate your emotions. Playing sports will help develop self-control.

How to develop and strengthen willpower: 10 effective ways

Before you can develop and strengthen your willpower, you need to find an incentive for yourself. Perhaps this will be an increase in self-esteem or the development of stress resistance. Or maybe it’s the formation of a healthy lifestyle or the desire to get rid of bad habits.

There are many different methods of dealing with lack of will. Using at least a few of them will significantly improve and make life easier.

Plan your affairs and follow the plan

You need to set small and large goals for every day, month, year, etc., there are many examples:

  • do not leave dirty dishes for tomorrow;
  • read interesting books every day;
  • clean your computer of unnecessary files once a month;
  • learn a foreign language in a year.

Functions and processes

A person with a strong will has a highly developed method of regulating his psyche. Will is important in relation to emotional status, the ability to concentrate attention and motivate oneself to action. The three key functions of will processes are oppressive, stabilizing, and initiating. Initiation is also called inducement. This function has a close connection with motivation factors and is aimed at initiating action. It determines behavioral characteristics and allows a person to be active. Due to the initiating volitional function, barriers (objective, internal) are overcome.

As a stabilizer, will is associated with efforts due to which activity is maintained at a sufficient level, despite interference from outside and within the person.

Inhibitory is the final most important function, which determines the role of will in human life. It is aimed at slowing down other desires, behavioral scenarios and patterns that contradict a specific goal. The oppressive volitional function determines a person’s ability to refuse some action, because of which the most significant value may be in a disadvantageous position. Inhibition is one of the key and most important aspects of regulating human behavioral patterns.


The first stages are formed in childhood. And the education provided by parents plays a huge role in this matter. If they pamper their child, do everything he asks, and try to indulge him in every possible way, then, most likely, he will grow up capricious, in a negative sense, stubborn with passive inclinations. This entails a certain danger, since upon entering adulthood, the individual will expect similar parental behavior from others.

But if mom and dad initially set serious demands on the baby (not to be confused with despotic ones), then from an early age the child will learn to achieve the goals set. And one of the effective ways to do this is to send him to a circle. But it is he who should choose it, since imposing hobbies is fraught with negative consequences in the future. It is important not to completely control the interests of children, but to promote their development.

Let's say a boy or girl really likes to draw. This means that such an aspect as passion is already present. But the second factor – patience and discipline – must be created. Therefore, it is worth giving your child drawing tasks, praising the results and providing a reward for achievements.

But you can engage in development as an adult, although this will be much more difficult if the habit of self-discipline is absent. Let's consider one of the methods step by step:

  1. Select a tool. This implies the area where efforts will be applied: profession, interests and hobbies. The best option is to choose the area where experience is at zero. Then progress will be visible much more clearly.
  2. Setting goals. At first they should be small. So, for example, a man who comes to the gym for the first time is unlikely to lift a barbell weighing 100 kg. It's the same in programming, writing or painting. If you immediately set global goals for yourself, you can quickly “burn out” without getting the desired result.
  3. From simple to complex. As soon as you begin to confidently perform the simplest actions, then increase the complexity. Otherwise, there is a risk of remaining at the same level.
  4. Write it down. Record successes and analyze failures. This will provide additional motivation and prevent further mistakes.
( 2 ratings, average 4.5 out of 5 )
Did you like the article? Share with friends:
For any suggestions regarding the site: [email protected]
Для любых предложений по сайту: [email protected]