“Willpower gives you the energy and endurance to deal with challenges, the ability to persevere in the face of setbacks, and the strength to tolerate conflict or stress that might otherwise make us run away from goals or projects we care about,” says Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford psychologist and author of The Willpower Instinct (Avery, 2011).
1. Remember your goals. If your willpower feels drained, think of the task at hand as a necessary stepping stone to help you achieve your goals. “Willpower is very easily depleted if its disconnected from your values and goals,” McGonigal says.
2. Practice coping with stress. When you’re working toward a goal, you are bound to hit tough times. To reach ambitious goals, you need to persist in stressful conditions, even when anxiety, fear, or even boredom threaten to sap your willpower. Mindfulness helps you cope with stress and strengthen willpower
3. Forgive your mistakes. You are bound to make mistakes, but your willpower will be stronger if you take those errors in stride. “Forgiving yourself for your mistakes increases motivation and engagement with goals,” McGonigal says.
Treat your own failure with the kindness you’d offer a friend, but note the ways that you can do a better job next time.
4. Connect with colleagues. Willpower naturally rises when we feel recognized and appreciated for our work. “We think of willpower as being so tough and individual, but the more connected people feel, the more willpower they have,” McGonigal says.
When you feel unmotivated or distracted, go talk to a co-worker or invite your colleagues to lunch. The simple pleasure of working with people you care about toward a common goal is a surprisingly effective way to restore your willpower.
5. Trust that it will get easier. We often struggle to stay engaged during difficult tasks because we imagine, sometimes unconsciously, that they will continue to be just as hard in the future. We feel defeated or hopeless and give up.
To combat that feeling, remember that your skill improves with practice. “Appreciate that a task is difficult but don’t tell yourself the story that it’s always going to be difficult,”. Most likely, the task will be a little bit easier every time you try it.