Every year in January, the gyms are packed with the well intentioned bursting with willpower. But come February, they are often empty when the first flush of willpower has evaporated.

It’s the same scenario for diets, language courses, art classes, piano lessons and other goals we set ourselves never to be completed.

But, it’s possible to avoid falling into that trap. Here are six steps you can take to be more successful at willpower.

1 Understand willpower

Willpower is ‘the ability to overcome instant gratification for long-term goals’.

We are in constant conflict with two parts of our brains: our higher brain, the prefrontal cortex, which makes rational decisions about what’s best for us and the lower brain with its pleasure principle of ‘I want it now’.

So next time you reach for that biscuit as if controlled by an automatic alien force, stop, breathe and remember what is happening.

2 Visualise success

Humans have been given a wonderful capacity to envision and imagine and we so often use this ability to anticipate disaster.

But you can use this skill for good.

Visualise not only reaching your goal but also the steps to that goal along the way.

Recent research shows that if we just visualise the end state so powerful is that process then we feel we have achieved our goal already.

3 Remember to relax

The more relaxed we are, the more we will achieve our willpower goals. So get relaxing!

Join a mindfulness or meditation class. You need to practice at least once a day, but it will help immediately and increase your longevity to take on more willpower challenges!

4 Make willpower a habit

Psychologists thought that willpower was a bit like a muscle which could be trained but could also become depleted with overuse.

That concept has now been rejected and willpower can be considered to be a mindset, which can be improved with practice, and is limitless as to what can be achieved.

Practice resisting temptation today. Start small with resisting a piece of chocolate then resisting going home instead of going to the gym. Get the willpower habit.

5 Streamline your life

If you want to achieve a willpower challenge, depending on how big it is, you may have to streamline other bits of your life so that you can focus.

A good example is Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook who wears only grey T-shirts. One decision less in a packed schedule.

6 Believe in your willpower

Research which looked at groups of people asked to resist temptation discovered the major differentiator was belief in their own willpower. 

Further reading:

Willpower – discover it, use it and get what you want by Ros Taylorbuy it now