How to build will-power to get ahead

Oct 20, 2016

Struggling to get ahead? Never fear. Here’s how to build will-power quickly.

The love of chocolate biscuits once stood between a woman and her dream of a size ten waist. But that was before she discovered the most powerful weapon against unfulfilled dreams known to man: will-power. The woman? Housewife and co-founder of Weightwatchers Jean Evelyn Nidetch, who sold the business to Heinz for $72m in 1978.

Jean said that once she was able to train her will to stop eating chocolate biscuits she could set her mind to achieve anything.

It may not be giving up chocolate biscuits, but what high and lofty dream could mastery over your will-power help you to achieve in your career?

One thing for sure, the will is nothing without action. Scientists who study the will, or what they call volition, agree that what we call the will is incomplete until we act on it. To this end, no matter what people tell you, the thought alone counts for nothing.

Why you must build will-power

Will-power is considered to be the main driving force for human achievement, ambition and success. A well-developed and strong will lies at the centre of taking initiative, being proactive, being decisive, meeting deadlines and achieving goals. It will make you tough when things get tough.

If you find yourself thinking of stuff you’d like to do but failing to take action, then you have a weak will. You tend to give up too quickly or let fear of failure derail your dreams. But if you are to get that dream job or to advance your career, you need a strong will: employers want people who act on what they say they are going to do. Companies need a man or woman of action. They want to see what you can do, not merely what you think, would like or intend to do. During CV assessments or job interviews employers will predict what you will do in the future based on what you have done in the past.

So, how have you used your will-power? Is it weak?

Never fear. It is possible to build will-power, though it takes work.

How to build will-power quickly

The American attorney, author and pioneer of the New Thought movement William Walker Atkinson said, “Nothing schools the will and renders it ready for effort in this complex world better than accustoming it to the practice of disagreeable things.”

The idea is to train the will by occasionally doing something you would rather not. It may be giving up your seat on the train, studying a subject you don’t like or getting up an hour earlier when you’d rather stay in bed.

What this will do is give you a strong will to fall back on in time of trouble: while colleagues are crying over spilt milk you will have found another cow.

There are daily opportunities to train your will-power and they will usually require you to make use of the following:

  1. Memory

    You are more likely to act on a thought if you’ve done it before and have strong positive associations related to the occasion. If, for example, you spoke at an event and enjoyed it, or attended a careers fair and found it profitable, then you will find it easier to will yourself to repeat the act. Your will is aided by your memory.

  1. Reward

    Imagining how the action will benefit you can spur you into action. If you stand to gain the favour of someone you respect or admire or to be paid well in return, then these can provide the elbow grease you need to act. Consequences work too: fear of being punished, ridiculed or letting someone down if you fail to keep a promise can also push you into action.

  1. Repeat

    Do it once and you will find it easier to do it again. And the more you repeat the action the easier it becomes. This is because you are building a habit via the neural pathway in the brain. Once you decide to act, do so straightaway; and once you act don’t miss an opportunity to repeat it. Missing a day makes it easier to break the habit and delay makes it easier for the initial inspiration to fade away.

Train your will to serve you. Just like Jean said, once you train your will to stop eating chocolate biscuits you can set your mind to achieve anything. You will then possess what it takes to elbow yourself to the top of your dream career.

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