“If I just had more willpower I’d get more done and achieve my goals.”—it’s a common misconception that if you just double-down with sheer grit and determination you could make faster progress on a change you want to make. Whether you want to start eating better, exercising more, reducing sugar, or need focus on that hefty work project—willpower is less about self-control and more about self-management.
What most people miss is that willpower is a finite resource and, like the battery on your phone, gets drained as you use it. And once it’s drained, your willpower is depleted—no matter how disciplined you are, no matter how many productivity hacks you know, and no matter how committed you are.
Fortunately, once you understand how willpower works, there are two main ways to manage it, replenish its battery life, and get back on course to achieve those things that matter most:
1. Refuel, Literally
Although willpower is a finite resource, it is renewable and one of the ways to recharge it is by literally feeding your mind. Although the brain accounts for less than 2% of a person's body weight, it consumes a staggering 20% of the body's energy.1 Make foods that elevate blood sugar levels like complex carbohydrates and proteins your fuel of choice as well as staying well-hydrated throughout the day.
2. Rest, Relax & Recharge
If you’re going to build new habits like effectively harnessing willpower, you need to factor in rest and relaxation. Because after all, the more you do, the quicker your willpower runs down. Create moments of pause throughout your day where you can recenter, find balance, and unwind—whether that’s through meditation, closing all those “open tabs” in your mind before bed, taking a yoga class, or practicing deep breathing. Plus, well-rested people generally have more chance of resisting the urge to be distracted and have a greater chance of staying focused.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking willpower is in endless supply, but the more you consider it a limited resource that needs to be actively managed, just like sleep and nutrition, the more likely you’ll be able to give it the call it up when you most need it. And although strength of character is one component of willpower, the secret to harnessing it is all about timing. When you use willpower at the right time, it means you’re making what matters most to you a priority and puts you on the quickest path to success.