Boosting Your Willpower to Achieve Business Success

Nike says, get out there and “just do it.” Sounds easy. So, you think up great plans for your business, creative ideas for new products or services, and a marketing strategy that is sure to succeed. But, for some reason, you do not put any of them into action. Why? Is it “lack of time” or “distractions” or “higher priorities” or is it that your willpower is depleted which prevents you from sticking to your goals and making them reality?


Willpower is a mental discipline that allows you to cultivate good habits, make better decisions, and control your own behaviors. You may not think about it, but it takes willpower to everything from the simplest tasks like making a daily to-do list to powering through difficult problems at work or at home. It is a quality that can separate the most productive business people from the least productive.


Willpower embodies elements of self-control. In a survey of more than 1 million people around the world, self-control was the character trait most lacking in modern men and women. Each day you have to exercise restraint. Focusing on an important memo or writing a report, you are interrupted by incessant new email notifications blinking on your computer or your smartphones. Some argue that the internet is destroying your ability to concentrate and read or think deeply. A typical computer user checks out more than three dozen websites per day. Even as I write this blog, I am tempted to go get a snack, surf the web, check our website or yours, or switch to another task. As management consultant, Peter Drucker, once said “What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that’s another matter.”


But willpower is an essential quality needed for effectiveness at work as you force yourself to prioritize the most important items on your to-do list and power through a maze of difficult decisions. Cultivating willpower can help you grow your business, get that promotion and help you achieve success.

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In a New York Times article*, “Why You Need to Sleep On It,” columnist John Tierney says that willpower depletion is a newly identified phenomenon among psychologists with symptoms similar to decision fatigue. Tierney and Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist, teamed up to write the book: Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. Baumeister says, “Making decisions uses the very same willpower that you use to say no to doughnuts, drugs or illicit sex. It’s the same willpower that you use to be polite or to wait your turn or to drag yourself out of bed or to hold off going to the bathroom. Your ability to make the right investment or hiring decision may be reduced simply because you expended some of your willpower earlier when you held your tongue in response to someone’s offensive remark or when you exerted yourself to get to the meeting on time.”


Willpower fluctuates when constant demands beg for decisions to be made both consciously and unconsciously. Our willpower is renewed after a good night’s sleep and depleted throughout the day. That is why is it a better to make major decisions in the morning than at the end of the day. Willpower is also renewed after eating. If you want a positive interaction with your boss or have to do some heavy duty brainstorming or strategizing with your team, it is better to tackle it after lunch or after they have had their morning coffee.


Successful people, Baumeister and his colleagues found, conserve willpower by developing effective habits and routines at home, at school and at work in order to reduce the amount of stress in their lives. Practice small. Training yourself to keep good posture on a regular basis can gradually improve your ability to self-regulate in other areas of your life. Taking a couple minutes to organize your work space each day becomes a discipline that improves your focus and productivity. Use self control wisely for avoiding a crisis rather than getting through them. Give yourself adequate time to finish projects. Address problems while they are the size of molehills rather than waiting until they become mountains that are difficult to climb over.


After working with business owners, we have found the following suggestions to be helpful in boosting your business willpower and achieving success in your organization.


1. Set clear, SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, time-based) goals. Write down the benefits of achieving each goal and visualize the goal being achieved.


2. Take action today. Rather than waiting until you have more clients or the economy is stronger or your competitor makes the first move, make a commitment to yourself and others to follow through on your goals and achieve them.


3. Take on your greatest challenges one at a time. By focusing on one major change at a time, you will be more successful. Because the amount of willpower you have is fixed, overloading yourself with too many tasks at once will diminish your ability to accomplish any goal. Drop dead-end projects and focus on putting your time into developing relationships that will sustain your business in the future.


4. Self-monitor and post progress. The more you monitor something, the more likely you are to stay on task. Sites like and offer help in self-regulation.


5. Find time to replenish. You only have so much willpower. Once it is depleted your ability to exercise self-control or make sound decisions diminishes drastically. If you have a difficult decision to make, give yourself some down time or eat to replenish your body’s glucose to refuel your willpower.


Due to increasing demands, decision-filled days, and distraction-filled lives, keeping your willpower replenished is a constant challenge. However, take one step today to boost your willpower and you will reap the benefits through increased productivity and achievement of business goals. Cultivating your willpower produces business success.


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