Flower A. Newhouse, a Christian mystic, once said, “Lack of willpower has caused more failure than lack of intelligence or ability.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines willpower as “energetic determination.” Synonyms of willpower include “self-discipline,” “self-government,” “self-mastery,” “self-command,” “self-control” and “self-restraint.”

What allows  hone person to possess great willpower and another none? Is there a genetic predisposition for self-restraint? Is it a learned pattern? Are you born with it? More important, can you develop willpower?

Willpower affects all facets of life: money (the self-restraint to practice delayed gratification, such as not purchasing expensive items on credit cards); health and your nutritional lifestyle (the self-discipline to avoid foods that are high in sugar and saturated fats); or improving your life to create more happiness (the self-government to walk away from friends or family who do not support your dreams and goals).

One would logically think that consequences would come into play when discussing willpower. Alas, they truly do not. We are all aware that smoking increases our susceptibility to cancer and emphysema, yet many people continue to smoke. Warnings are printed conspicuously on the side of the package of cigarettes, but they do not stop us from smoking.

The consequences of inadequate or poor nutrition wreak havoc on our health, causing diseases such as diabetes and heart-related illnesses; although we are well aware of the ill effects of fast food, the number of fast-food restaurants seems to grow.

Attaining and Keeping Willpower

Understanding the consequences of your actions may or may not play a role in learning self-control. It will depend on your tolerance factor. The difficulty in attaining willpower is the lack of instant gratification. As stated previously, one cannot see the immediate positive effects of willpower.

The way to develop willpower is in small increments. And the best way to see your willpower at work is to journal how you feel physically, emotionally and financially.

The most important aspect of journaling is to actually read your journal at the end of the week. Studying your journal affords you the opportunity to see a cause and effect of your actions. For example, if you wrote that you ate a certain food(s) that caused stomach cramps, you would be less likely to eat this food again. It works the same way with your emotions and finances. If you journal that you are feeling a certain way because you spent money over your budget, or felt bad because you missed your daily exercise, you would be less likely to repeat these same mistakes. At the same time, you should journal how you feel in a positive manner. If you read your journal at the end of the week and find that you were feeling good physically, mentally and financially, you will hopefully be able to determine what you did to feel good.

If you are on a diet and you don’t feel like using a written journal, use pictures. Take a picture of yourself every thirty days. If you are disciplined with your lifestyle changes, you will see the changes in your body. This will support your actions of willpower.

When it comes to health and nutrition, set a goal for one week. Anybody can do some thing for one week. The goal is simple. Avoid any foods that come from a box. Once that goal is accomplished, the following week avoid any foods that come in a box and a can. On week three avoid all bread, pasta and white rice and increase your protein intake. On week four, begin a walking program. Will it be hard at times to continue? Yes, but remember you are developing self-restraint, and as it is in any learned activity, it will take some time.

If you have the urge to buy a large-ticket item on credit, wait forty-eight hours before you make your purchase. Decide whetherg you really need this product or you just want this product. Is there better use for this money that you are willing to spend on this item? Ask yourself if you would be willing to save for this product over one year, saving a specific amount of money each month. This is self-control. This is willpower.

Some people do not embrace willpower because it means change. Most people talk of change, but many are not willing to strive for it. Don’t give up so easily, as willpower can be learned. It just takes time, as when you learn anything. You didn’t learn to skateboard, roller-skate or read in one day, and you won’t develop willpower in one week. But you can develop willpower over a period of time. You just have to start!

In the famous words of Lao-Tzu, “Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”

Michael J. Kaye is a chiropractic physician practicing in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He is a member of the American Chiropractic Association, Pennsylvania Chiropractic Association and the American Chiropractic Rehabilitation Board. He has a sub-specialty in Chiropractic Rehabilitation.

He is the director of The Rehab Group of Bucks/Montgomery County-a multidisciplinary clinic with an emphasis on chronic pain and wellness. He is a publisher of two papers on rehabilitation of chronic injuries. In general his clinic promotes nutritional and lifestyle changes for the chronic pain patient. Additionally, he has published several articles on finance and wealth, happiness and motivation; and health related issues.

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