Willpower is a finite resource. And that's good news. Because what is changeable is controllable. If willpower can run out, it can build up. The three most important tools for the development of will in this article.


Recently I got acquainted with the speech of the biologist Irina Yakutenko on the topic "Willpower and Self-Control", the author of the book of the same name. Irina's main position boils down to the following: "Willpower cannot be developed, it is given from birth."

This view is at odds with the opinion of psychologist Kelly McGonigal, author of the best-selling book "Willpower. How to develop and strengthen ”. Kelly says, "Willpower is like a muscle and can be trained." Here's a bad luck. And what should we, mere mortals, who are faced with two opposite views of scientists on the same problem, do? As always - to appeal to common sense, hoping that we are the happy owners of it.

Kelly is consistent in her conclusions, each judgment is supported by references to relevant studies. Finding fault with anything is extremely difficult.

Irina's speech, on the contrary, seemed somewhat contradictory to me. First, she convinces the listener that willpower is, first of all, genetics, which cannot be influenced. And he does not forget to throw a stone at the side of the rogue coaches who offer programs to develop strong-willed potential. And then he takes a sharp turn and declares that genetics is not everything. There is also the influence of the external environment, and therefore not everything is so hopeless. And ... She herself proposes measures to strengthen willpower, while offering to buy her own book.

My opinion is that you should read both books and draw your own conclusions. And I will tell you what, in my opinion, lies at the heart of strengthening volitional potential.


The phenomenon of will power is based on the activity of the will center located in the area of the frontal lobes. Its capabilities are certainly limited by our genetics. Therefore, there are children more and less restrained. However, genetics only forms our potential, which must be revealed by the environment. Are you 100% sure your willpower potential is reached? So I'm not sure.

In the case of the practice of developing will, they become the very factors of the external environment that contribute to the disclosure of potential. So, as it happens with an ear for music, math skills or playing sports.

By the way, as a coach, I can say with confidence: almost any young person can be brought to the level of a master of sports, regardless of his natural inclinations. The gifted will go to the international level, but the level of the master of sports can be guaranteed by the very method of training with the appropriate discipline and motivation.

It's the same with willpower. Let someone have great potential from birth, so so what? Even though you and I don't have so much of this willpower, how much do we need? We need just enough to take the horse of our destiny by the bridle and exterminate the evil spirit of carelessness in ourselves, and this is within the power of everyone.


The first and most powerful way to increase willpower is TO HAVE A SLEEP SCHEDULE and stick to it on weekdays and weekends. It works like this.

If your sleep quality suffers, then the body perceives it as unfavorable conditions of existence. Why do we sleep badly? Because saber-toothed tigers roam around, and we need to be on the alert. Any CHRONIC STRESS (lack of sleep is chronic stress) leads to suppression of the volitional center and strengthening of its antipode - the limbic system, which is responsible for impulsive behavior.

This happens because in an environment unfavorable for survival it is more profitable to be impulsive in order to react with lightning speed to any suddenly arising stimulus and not be stupid while solving the mysteries of life.

Therefore, the best way to convince your unconscious that everything is fine with you is to start getting enough sleep already. Such tactics in the literal sense of the word makes us more conscious: who does not remember this wonderful feeling of a good deep sleep, when the head thinks clearly and a wonderful mood turns on by itself in the morning? In this state, you are cheerful, confident, optimistic and ready to fight any temptation.


The second way to strengthen your will is TO ESTABLISH A COMPLETE FOOD CULTURE. This method works like this.

The main fuel of our body is glucose. The brain is the most sensitive to glucose in the blood, so it is vigilant so that sugar does not jump above or below normal. In the event that sugar drops, the brain turns on the laziness program so that the muscles do not use up what is already in deficit.

However, not only muscles remain deprived, but also consciousness (including the volitional center as a part of it). The most evolutionarily ancient subcortical structures of the brain have priority in the distribution of energy. If there is not enough energy, we experience lethargy, drowsiness and dullness. The hand itself reaches for a cigarette, a cup of coffee, a glass of vodka, a smartphone, a gramophone and other joys of life, because self-control fell below the plinth along with sugar.

Hence the conclusion: for the volitional center to have a loud commanding voice, you need to feed it well. The key here is REGULAR, SYSTEMATIC NUTRITION to keep blood sugar at a constant level.


And, finally, the third way is systematic sports. There is research showing that those who start exercising regularly become more disciplined and find it easier to engage in self-control programs.

What I never heard (perhaps missed ...) in Irina Yakutenko's speech is the thesis about the plasticity of the brain. Of course, we are naturally given a volitional center of a certain volume, but does this prevent us from increasing this volume by systematic training? Brain plasticity is just about how the brain can change in the course of our lives under the influence of lifestyle. And the way of life depends, among other things, on ourselves.

Physical culture is the best way to controllably load the volitional center, telling the brain: "I need it!" And what is needed begins to develop. If you systematically overcome yourself in training, nothing prevents you from developing the same volitional efforts outside of it. Maybe that's why people who are seriously involved in sports are generally more disciplined and subject to self-control than mere mortals?


There are many other methods of strengthening willpower. But they are all based on the same principle: you set yourself a feasible task, and then you solve it regularly. And at some point you begin to realize that what was unbearable for you yesterday is already quite within your ability today. Everything is exactly the same as with lifting weights.

Willpower is the art of self-government, a way to eradicate bad habits and addictions from your life and fill your life with constructiveness. Working on his will, a person sooner or later comes to a stable daily routine, in which there are no blank spots. For every blank spot is wasted time, and hence a lack of self-control.

And the last thing. If there are ways to increase willpower, then there are good ways to kill it. For example, freezing in a smartphone (for the older generation - TV). Do you know why surfing the Internet, like watching TV, destroys our will? This is true and there is a rational explanation for this. Try to find the material basis of this process yourself.

And may the force be with you!

Author's Bio: 

My name is Rudiyr. I was born and live in Russia. I am engaged in giving advice to people on mental health, self-improvement and harmonious development. I am also the author of the course "Philosophy of Practical Natural Science". In it, I consider issues of health, positive energy balance of a person, energy sources for a person (sleep, nutrition, physical activity, creativity) and other aspects that allow a person to live happily.
Contact email: kslava73@gmail.com