Have you ever planned a goal, but fell short of reaching it? One of the main factors that can influence the success of a goal is willpower. While you don’t need to be on a health and fitness mission, creating new habits can test your willpower constantly.

So, how much of a role does willpower play in our decision making?

The American Psychological Association states that it is the ability to resist short-term gratification in pursuit of long-term goals or objectives. Compared to individuals with low levels of self-control, researchers have found that subjects with  higher levels of willpower tend to have improved physical and mental health, lower rates of obesity, lower substance abuse rates, and higher self-esteem.

Researchers have found that levels of willpower are consistent over time. If levels of self-control were low as a child, the higher the chance self-control and willpower will be low as an adult. If your concerned about your own level of self-control or will power, there are a few ways you can develop or strengthen it.

Training willpower is similar to training muscles. When use training strategies to train your muscles they become fatigued, but over time they recover and become stronger, being able to lift more weight or do more work for a longer period. The same rule applies to willpower and self-control. If you implement strategies to help you avoid certain behaviors, your willpower and self-control will increase.

Willpower is not all in your head; It has a physical component. Individuals that have lower levels of self-control have shown decreased brain activity in the regions of the brain involved with cognition, and lower levels of blood glucose, than individuals who have more willpower.

There are other ways to help improve your ability to overcome the temptations of life. Since low glucose or blood sugar levels can have an impact on willpower, consider eating your meals on a more regular basis rather than going long hours without food to maintain glucose levels (and self-control).

Using the “out of sight out of mind” strategy is also beneficial. For example, if you normally have snacks out on your desk, try keeping in your drawer to reduce visual temptations. Planning is always a good way to anticipate temptation and prime yourself for the upcoming willpower requirement. Make it a point to pack a lunch so you can have ready-made option to help you avoid unhealthy writing.

Ultimately, willpower is fueled by the motivation you have to overcome temptation to reach a certain goal. If your motivation is great enough, you can increase the amount of willpower you have almost instantly. This doesn’t mean that you will be able to overcome every physical obstacle, but it will give you the needed energy to avoid temptations and take more positive steps toward your desired goals.

Want to learn more about willpower? Check out our new 9 to 5 Fitness podcast episode where we discuss the role of willpower in your fitness journey and the motivation behind it.