3 Sure-Fire Ways To Power Up Your Willpower


“I am super clear on what I want to accomplish” said Karen, a recent student of ours who was just entering her senior year, “but the more I try to get things done, the less often I seem to succeed.”

Karen went on to share – in front of the whole class of 475 undergrads no less — that she was trying to exercise more often, meditate daily, and eat more healthily.

“I know that these things are all good for me. I know that I would be happier if I could make them a part of my life. I have the best intentions, but then I find myself up late, surfing the net, and eating Ben & Jerry’s right out of the container. I have to say that it is super frustrating”.

Karen was at the end of her rope. She also wasn’t alone.

Every semester we begin our class on willpower asking our 475 students a simple question: “Who wishes that they had more willpower?”

Nearly all of them raise their hands – some of them raise both – hardly a surprise seeing that studies have found that a vast majority of us would raise ours also.

Whether it is something that we want to stop (i.e. eating junk food, impulse shopping, or texting our ex) or a habit that we want to develop (i.e. regular exercise, better study habits, or staying in closer contact with friends), we are all striving for something, and like Karen…failing miserably.

So, is there an answer to this age old cycle of wanting an end result but falling off the wagon that will take you there? It turns out, there is something, though not magical, that will unlock the door to your goals. That key?


Learn 3 sure-fire ways to power up your willpower.

Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal defines willpower as “the ability to do what matters most, even when it’s difficult or when some part of you doesn’t want to.” If this sounds familiar, it’s because — believe it or not – you have it.

Yes, you do.

Have you ever hit the books or gone to work when Netflix was singing her siren song of a newly downloaded season of television awesomeness? Willpower.

Have you hit the sack when you knew that a new tweet or Facebook post was just a click away? Willpower.

Woken up early (gasp)…to exercise (double gasp)? Chosen eggs over waffles? Willpower and willpower.

Done any number of things because you knew they were “right” rather than “fun”? You know what’s coming…willpower.

Willpower is so essential to thriving that kids who display it early in life go on to realize higher GPAs, better salaries, happier relationships, lower rates of divorce, and significantly lower body mass index (a key indicator of physical fitness).

They grow up to be more resilient, more confident, and even deal more effectively with stress.

Now this is all well and good if you were that kid who said no to dessert and chose to do your homework before going outside to play. But what about the 70% of us who couldn’t help but sneak the cookie or stay out past curfew?

Are we destined to spend the rest of our days eating the dust of our more self-regulated contemporaries? Are we doomed to lower salaries, less confidence and happiness, and a virtual carousel of failed relationships?

Fortunately, there is hope for all of us. The secrets and strategies for success are not hard to crack and even easier to make on your own.

The first step in achieving willpower is to understand what you have to work with. It’s pretty tough to cook a meal without knowing your ingredients after all.

Speaking of ingredients, let’s talk about cookies. Yes…cookies. Chocolate chip, to be exact.

Actually, cookies and radishes, because this is what greeted participants in a study at Florida State University, where social psychologist Roy Baumeister and his colleagues would lift the hood and begin to understand how willpower works.

Upon entering the room, the study participants were hit by the tantalizing aroma of fresh chocolate chip cookies heaped on plates that were placed on every table in sight.

The students were divided into two groups. One group was told the cookies were all theirs: Eat ’em, smell ’em, throw ’em like Frisbees, hang ’em on the wall like art, rub ’em all over your body (okay, we made up those last three, but you get the idea). It was a cookie fest!

Except…how come there were bowls of radishes in equal abundance? The other group was told they were out of luck if they wanted any cookies. It was radishes or nothing for them.

After just five minutes to savor (or suffer), the researchers switched gears, thanked everyone, and informed both groups that it was time to move on to a different study.

Removing the food from the room, they handed out a book of math puzzles to all participants and asked them to begin solving them.

Just hang with me…this will all tie together.

What they did not tell them—and here is where things really get interesting—was that the puzzles were unsolvable.

How many minutes would you work at a puzzle before giving up?

The radish group gave up in just eight minutes.

The cookie eaters? They persisted for nineteen. That’s right, nineteen. The cookie eaters worked more than twice as long before they gave up on the puzzle.

Allow us to put that more precisely:

Radish eaters: 8.35 minutes until giving up

Cookie eaters: 18.90 minutes until giving up


It turns out that willpower is a muscle that tires with use.

Whether you are resisting cookies, Facebook, a glass of wine or texting your ex, the more you use it, the weaker it gets, until it’s all but gone.

You see, the radish eaters had depleted their willpower resisting cookies, and thus didn’t have the oomph left to stick with the puzzle as long as the cookie eaters did.

And just as saying no drains, so does saying yes. The well-intentioned efforts to push through unsolvable problems, study harder, clean your dorm room, or balance your finances all take a toll on your willpower, too.

The more you use it throughout the day, the weaker it becomes, and the less you have remaining when you’re having that midnight stare down with Ben and Jerry’s — so you give it up and grab the spoon…this sucker was over before it began.

And let’s be clear here—almost everything you do requires willpower:

  • Getting up in the morning (without hitting your snooze bar eight times)
  • Hitting the gym (instead of the couch)
  • Paying attention during a meeting (and we don’t mean to your phone)

Every choice you make—good or bad—continually fatigues that willpower muscle.

That muscle wakes up like the fresh-faced Lindsay Lohan circa Mean Girls, but by bedtime is today’s hot-mess Lindsay Lohan courtesy of TMZ.

As the day goes on, your strength is progressively sapped, and after a long, tough one, most of us are far more likely to make poor decisions.

Ever have a regrettable fight, regrettable double bacon pepperoni pizza, regrettable sex, or a million other regrettable things?

Probably happened later in the day, didn’t it?

By the time night falls, you may find yourself simply doing nothing at all. You may find yourself on a sort of robotic autopilot, zombie-walking back into your house, sincerely intending to tackle the array of stuff on that is piling up on your desk or laptop (and likely on your conscience) but discovering that the lure of the couch is simply too much to resist.

Willpower? Gone. Proactivity? Not happening. And thirty minutes later, you are still watching the same dumb TV show, and the spiral has only gone further downward.

Some of the most common willpower vampires include:

  • Making decisions
  • Taking initiatives
  • Multitasking
  • Restraining impulses
  • Sleep deprivation

Even when we try to do the right thing, we seem to only have so much willpower.

As Kelly McGonigal points out:

  • Smokers who abstain from cigarettes for twenty-four hours are more likely to binge on ice cream.
  • Drinkers who say no to their favorite cocktail become weaker on a test of physical endurance.
  • People who are on a diet are more likely to cheat on their spouse (yes, you read that correctly).

So what the hell are we supposed to do? Are we doomed to either smoke or eat sundaes? Drink or collapse on a run? Wear fat jeans forever or cheat on our partners?

Here’s the thing —  just like a muscle, not only can you make it stronger, you can also keep some on ice for later.

Welcome to the willpower gym.

1. Exercise: Breathe, Move, Sleep

If you’ve ever had your heart set aflutter, you have experienced a telltale physical sign of temptation.

When you are on the verge of caving into a craving (or succumbing to a distraction such as the Internet), your heart rate rises, but its consistency decreases—a cardiovascular portrait of speeding up while losing control.

When you are ready to face the challenge, however, the opposite occurs, a slower and more regulated rhythm. Heart rate variability (HRV) is such a strong indicator of willpower that it can allow researchers to predict how people do in the face of temptation.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to increase your HRV so that it helps you keep your cool at times when you feel like you might get all hot and bothered.

Try twenty breaths.

Breathing to regulate your HRV can work wonders. The University of Pennsylvania’s Michael Baime recommends closing your eyes, sitting upright, and taking twenty breaths, counting each one (an inhale/exhale counts as one) and focusing on each cycle intently for about ten seconds each.

Read Related: 5 Mindfulness Exercises To Reduce Stress and Reclaim Joy

Doing this in moments of weakness can help you triumph over temptation. Practicing twice each day builds strength so you can stay on the path, not stray from it.

Step (or run) away from temptation.

Regular exercise increases HRV, optimizes your willpower, and has been found to reduce consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and junk food; minimize impulse buying, procrastination, and lateness; and increase study habits and money-saving practices.

No need to run a marathon: If you want to hit the gym, great. If it’s a stroll around the block, equally great. Just move it.

Rested eyes stay on the prize.

The effects of sleep deprivation resemble mild intoxication, and your HRV suffers the same way (bad decisions, anyone?).

If you’re still working on getting a solid seven to eight, try a twenty-minute nap (tip: I swear by my earplugs and take them everywhere I go).

It has loads of cognitive benefits, and you may notice an instant boost in your ability to stay on task and ignore the distractions.

2) Exercise: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

We once had a student in class who loved ice cream so much that when we asked the students about their most challenging temptations, she raised both hands and said, “This is Ben and this is Jerry. They live in my fridge. Always.”

Her solution to the addiction? She simply stopped keeping ice cream in her freezer, forcing herself to walk to the store to buy a pint when she had to have it. Ben and Jerry were a lot less desirable when it became a commuter relationship.

Read Related: Rebounding Trampoline Exercises

If you’re glued to your phone, bury it at the bottom of your closet at bedtime instead of keeping it beside—or in—your bed.

If you’re a shopaholic, freeze your credit card in a block of ice. Not only can you save a few bucks (or calories), but you save up your willpower for when you need it later.

Whether it’s ice cream or your ex, choose a temptation you would be better off without. Now, strategize.

If you have the urge to text your ex all the time (or simply at the wrong time), or you find yourself rereading his or her texts, erase all of their contact info from your phone. (I did this once for my best friend. Without telling him. Long term, good. Short term, mayhem.)

Move the TV out of your bedroom – it’s hard to binge your favorite show when there is nothing to watch it on. Turn your phone off during a date or a meal with friends or family (not silent, not airplane mode, OFF). Stick to your strategy for one month, then move on to the next temptation. Studies show that we should be ready for our next challenge after thirty days.

3) Exercise: Two Wills Are Better than One

Social support can be key to boosting willpower. Whether you want to resist temptations or take more initiative, teaming up with friends makes the going easier.

Be in good company.

Studies show that simply observing people who are exerting their willpower can help raise our own levels. Do you appreciate a friend’s habits when it comes to exercise or good nutrition? Spend more time with that person.

Get a workout partner.

Accountability to others is a key to developing habits and goal-setting.

Find a friend who is looking to build willpower, share your specific goals with each other, and then set a time to check in every day on progress and goals for the day ahead. A quick text or conversation will do the trick.

Try a trainer or coach.

Personal trainers aren’t just for toning up your abs, they can buff up your willpower as well.

Whether it’s organization, managing personal finances, nutrition, or any other area you want to improve, work with a specialist, like a life coach, once a week, logging your progress each day.

Read Related: How to Stay Healthy: 10 Micro Habits To Practice Daily

Stick with one area of focus at a time (remember, you only have one willpower muscle!).

We tend to think of willpower as something that is key to specific desires – eating, exercising, saying “no” when no is the right thing to say – even if “yes” would be a lot more fun.

But research shows that willpower is much more than a prudent yes or no.

The amount that you enjoy affects the quality of your friendships, health, resilience, and happiness (to name a few), and predicts higher salaries and more secure relationships in the years ahead.

Fortunately for those of us late to the willpower game, research shows that it’s never too late to start exercising and building up your willpower.

Author Bio

Daniel Lerner
is a speaker, teacher, strengths-based performance coach, and an expert in positive and performance psychologies. In the classroom and in his talks, Lerner integrates storytelling, humor, and science, helping students and professionals apply his teachings into their lives with immediate benefit.

From the Dan Lerner and Alan Schlechter, co-teachers of NYU’s most popular elective class, “Science of Happiness,” comes the new book, U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life), a fun, comprehensive guide to surviving and thriving in college and beyond.

The post 3 Sure-Fire Ways To Power Up Your Willpower appeared first on Live Bold and Bloom.


Constructive Criticism: Don’t Make the Truth Hurt

Constructive Criticism

Does anyone like to be criticized?

I certainly don’t. But over time, I’ve learned how valuable criticism can be.

When I was in my twenties and working in public relations, I sent a letter to a magazine editor suggesting a story idea related to one of my clients.

I received a stinging reply from the editor’s assistant, someone about my same age. He had sent my letter back, marked up like a high school term paper, criticizing my writing and pointing out grammatical errors.

It felt like I’d been slapped. At first I was indignant. “How dare he send me this. Who does he think he is? I majored in English in college — I know more than he does.”

But after my internal tirade, I burst into tears. As painful as it was to admit it, he was right — I had made mistakes in the letter. I could have done better.

Although his delivery was sorely lacking, the editor’s assistant taught me two powerful lessons with his comments: first, proofread everything before sending it, and second, don’t ignore criticism just because it stings. It might actually help you.

The lesson the assistant could have (or should have) learned was how to offer criticism in a way that doesn’t leave the other person reeling. That’s a skill that can win you a lot of respect and good will in your professional and personal life.

Most of us tend to get defensive and hurt when we’re criticized, whether or not the criticism is warranted.

We get thoughts like: “What right do you have to say that? Are you so perfect that you’re above criticism? I bet you’ve made more mistakes than I have.”

Even if the critic means well, being the recipient of negative feedback isn’t easy on the ego. But if the critic is thoughtless or intentionally harsh, it can send some people into dark and painful place.

Everyone has a sense of their own importance. We all need to be validated and to feel like our efforts and actions are valued.

Negative criticism can feel like an invalidation of your very existence and humanity. Offered mindlessly, it can make you question yourself and your essential worthiness.

Knowing how painful criticism can be, you would think we would just avoid criticizing other people. Who wants to inflict pain or cause someone to question their own self-worth?

But of course it’s not realistic to avoid criticizing others altogether. Plenty of circumstances warrant criticism, and sometimes it is even ethically imperative that you offer it.

Like when your son parties all night instead of doing his homework. Or your friend shows up late every time you meet for a coffee date. Or your employee does something that can cost your business thousands or millions of dollars.

It’s not a question of whether or not you should criticize. It’s a question of how to deliver that criticism.

It’s essential to communicate your feedback in a way that the recipient doesn’t feel personally attacked.

You also want the recipient to feel good enough about your comments to take the appropriate action. A poorly delivered critique can totally backfire on you.

And hopefully the recipient will feel grateful to you for the feedback and learn something along the way.

Understanding how to offer criticism in a way that is productive and positive can ensure you get what you need from another person without leaving them bruised and battered in the process.

Here are six strategies for offering constructive criticism:

1. Make sure your timing is right.

Aside from what you say, when you say it also matters.

The recipient should be in the right mindset to receive criticism. If he or she seems angry or distressed, your criticism will not only upset them further, but also it will make them more likely to reject your feedback.

On the flip side, you don’t want to criticize someone in the middle of a celebration or happy occasion. The last thing you want is to be that person who bursts bubbles and rains on parades.

If possible, wait until the person is in a neutral mood. Ask to speak with them in a private place, saying something like, “Excuse me, may I have a word?” Make sure there are no distractions or potential interruptions, and then proceed to the next step.

2. Start with a positive statement.

It’s tempting to launch straight to the point, especially when you’re pressed for time, or if you’re the type who doesn’t mince words.

But if you want the other person to take your feedback to heart, then you have to show them that their negative points aren’t the only thing you notice.

For example, if your employee is usually competent but happened to make a serious mistake this one time, start off with something like, “I know how much effort you put into every project,” or, “I know how much this project means to you, considering the high quality of your work in the past.”

Make sure your compliments are sincere and true. Avoid unnecessary flattery to soften the blow. Also, steer clear of manipulative statements such as, “I know you like receiving feedback.” (Does anyone like negative feedback?)

The other person will think you’re being condescending and won’t take your constructive criticism seriously.

3. Focus on the problem, not the person.

No one likes to feel personally attacked. Even when a person does something wrong, they don’t want to own up to the fact without some resistance.

If you’re going to talk about someone’s mistake, you need to put a psychological distance between the mistake and the person who committed it.

Read Related: 10 Conflict Resolution Skills

Let’s say your colleague used the wrong pie chart in his presentation. Instead of saying “You used the wrong pie chart,” say “I think that pie chart was for last year’s P&L report.”

By  using “I” pronouns to preface negative statements, being matter-of-fact, and avoiding insinuations about the person’s intelligence or competence, you can help them become aware of their mistake without alienating them.

In personal situations, you might start with the statement, “I feel.” For example, with the friend who is always late, you might say, “I feel disrespected when you don’t show up on time for our coffee dates.”

This takes the focus off of them being the “bad guy,” and allows them to understand how their behavior impacts another person.

4. Offer suggestions, not instructions.

When someone gives you orders or instructions on how to do something, how does it make you feel?

You feel like an ignorant child being talked down to, right?

So when you want to let someone know how to do better next time, it’s important to come across as helpful rather than patronizing.

When offering suggestions, use positive language, like, “You can do this,” instead of, “You shouldn’t do this.”

Explain the benefits of your suggestion, like, “If we use a slightly darker color for the pie chart, the presentation will be easier on the eyes.”

Ask questions to gently nudge the person into coming up with a solution of their own. “Given the situation, do you have any ideas about what to do?”

5. Close with another positive statement.

Even if you’re careful about how you phrase your constructive criticism, the person may still be reeling from what you just dropped on them.

To soften the blow, sandwich the negative between two positives by reiterating the positive things you said earlier.

Show confidence in their abilities by saying something like, “I know you can do this. I believe in you.”

Read Related: 101 Positive Affirmations

Let them know you have their back — “If you need anything, I’m happy to help you.”

Don’t forget to reinforce your words with positive body language, like a smile on your face or a reassuring touch. That further shows the recipient that every word you said was sincere.

6. Follow up, if appropriate.

Of course, you want to know how the other person took your feedback and acted on it. If the person responded the way you intended, that’s good.

If not, use your judgment to decide the next course of action. You can reiterate your feedback in stronger, more direct language. You can ask someone else to talk to the person on your behalf. Or you can choose not to do anything at all.

It’s possible that no matter how carefully you delivered your constructive criticism, the person will still think badly of you.

Read Related: Good Communication Skills You Must Know

If you’ve already exhausted all reasonable options, and the person insists on being upset and not taking responsibility for the mistake, then consider letting it go.

This may not be possible in a professional situation. But in your personal life, you might not want to waste time trying to change someone who doesn’t want to change.

You never know — sometimes people resist at first, only to let your words sink in over time.

When you offer constructive criticism, how you deliver it is just as important as why.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and think about how you’d want to receive the feedback you’re about to offer.

When you have compassion and empathy for the other person, it helps you grow as well.

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What Is A Demisexual? 5 Signs You May Be One

What is a demisexual?

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a demisexual friend years ago.

At the time, I didn’t know she was demisexual. I didn’t even know what a demisexual was.

But I did know that, unlike most of my other friends, she didn’t display obvious sexual attraction towards anyone of any gender.

Until she met John, that is.

I remember she wouldn’t stop talking about John.

She would go on and on about his amazing qualities — how smart and kind he was and how he looked so much like a Hollywood star. As she gushed, “He’s almost too perfect to be true.”

Of all the things she said, however, one stood out.

“You know,” I said, putting down my cup of coffee, “I noticed you keep describing John as a ‘good friend’ over and over.”

“Yes,” she replied thoughtfully, twirling a spoon into her coffee, “because we are good friends.”

I almost slammed my coffee cup on the table. “Are?”

“Yes, we ‘are’ good friends,” she repeated. “What’s wrong with that?”

I didn’t reply. I wanted to point out that “friends” and “lovers” aren’t the same thing, but I had a feeling she’d be offended.

She seemed to sense my discomfort, because she said, “Ah, I’m a demisexual, you see.”

Thankfully, I resisted the urge to say “What?” outright.

Instead, I got the conversation going with, “I’m not very familiar with the term ‘demisexual,’ to be honest. But I’d love to hear more about what it’s like from you!”

Fortunately for me, she chose not to be offended or at least to ignore my discomfort at her revelation. As our conversations about the subject deepened, this is what I gathered about being a demisexual.

What is a demisexual? Here are some of the signs:

According to Asexuality.org, demisexuals only feel sexual attraction towards people with whom they already have a strong emotional connection.

That emotional connection isn’t necessarily romantic; in fact, it’s more common for demisexuals to be attracted to their friends before anyone else.

Most of the time, however, demisexuals don’t feel sexual attraction — which is why they’re said to fall under the asexuality spectrum.

Here are some other signs you might be a demisexual:

1. You don’t put as much importance on sex as others do.

It’s not that you don’t like sex or think it’s wrong. It’s just that, for the most part, you don’t see the point of doing it.

Why get physically intimate with someone when you can simply share lively conversations with each other?

Why use someone else for your sexual pleasure, when you can please yourself on your own? And why do people talk like having sex is the pinnacle of existence?

These are some of the questions that bother you as a demisexual. You’re not sure how to explain not wanting sex to people who’ve wanted it for most of their adult lives.

Engaging in conversations about the subject makes you feel awkward and uncomfortable.

2. You are primarily attracted to someone’s personality, as opposed to their looks.

There are two types of attraction: primary and secondary. Primary attraction is what you feel for someone based on their looks and other qualities you can easily discern.

Secondary attraction, on the other hand, is based on someone’s personality and how well you connect with that person.

As a demisexual, you aren’t necessarily incapable of primary attraction.

On the contrary, you’ve had your fair share of crushes at first sight. Like many people, you appreciate the way an actor runs his hands through his hair or the way an actress tilts her mouth up when she laughs.

However, you don’t hit on random strangers just because you find them “hot.” In fact, you hardly use the word “hot” to describe people.

You are far more interested in what’s behind the pretty face. Chemistry for you is an intriguing personality.

3. You prefer to befriend, rather than flirt.

Since you’re more likely to be attracted to someone based on their secondary qualities, your romantic relationships usually start out as friendships.

After all, you already know your friends like the back of your hand. To you, the idea of dating people within hours — or even months — after meeting them is unthinkable.

Also, the word “flirting” is not in your vocabulary. You are not a flirter, and you wonder why other people do it. Often you’re oblivious to (and uncomfortable with) people who try to flirt with you.

You’d rather that lovers get to know you first before they begin acting flirtatious and romantic.

4. When you are sexually attracted to someone, you’re either confused or single-minded.

Because you don’t feel sexual attraction very often, you struggle when you do feel it.

When you get a strange, fluttery feeling around someone, it confuses you.

How do you act on the feeling? Is it okay to have sex with a special someone, even if you two are already good friends?

How do you even start with sexual intercourse? Do you need to have sex in the first place?

Why not just show someone how much you love them based on what you do for them every day, rather than focusing on how skilled you are in the bedroom?

Once you realize you’re in love, you also realize one other thing: you can’t imagine being in love with anyone else other than that person.

If you’re being honest with yourself, that’s more terrifying than anything else you’ve ever experienced in your life.

5. You’ve been called “prudish,” “old-fashioned,” or similar words.

Most people think you’re demisexual by choice. They think you’re old-fashioned and want to wait until marriage before having sex.

You’re often teased and told things like, “It’s the 21st century for goodness sake. You don’t have to wait for a marriage license.”

In reality, you just don’t feel compelled to seek out “the one” in the first place.

You’re also fully aware of the fact that anyone can sleep with anyone else, regardless of gender, religion, or marital status.

Still that doesn’t change the fact that you just can’t turn on sexual attraction like a switch, no matter how much everyone else thinks you should.

You are not alone as a demisexual. There are others like you who understand wanting a deeper emotional connection before getting sexually involved with someone.

Remember that regardless of your sexuality, you deserve to have love, care, and understanding — not only from others but also from yourself.

Are you a demisexual, or know someone who is? How do you feel about it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

The post What Is A Demisexual? 5 Signs You May Be One appeared first on Live Bold and Bloom.