After reading an intriguing article in last Sunday’s NYT week-in-review, I picked up the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by researchers Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. Depressingly, research has shown that ‘willpower’ is a measurable process in the brain and when willpower is used, it depletes glucose in the blood. (Who knew?) On a more encouraging note, research has also shown that willpower is a skill that can be strengthened with repeated use and that strengthening will power in one area of your life leads to gains in all areas.

If you want to strengthen your will, the research cited in the book suggests the following:

1. Stating a clear, specific goal you have a realistic chance of achieving
2. Taking on only a few goals at a time
3. Getting enough sleep
4. Making sure your blood sugar is as even as possible (healthy snacks, healthy meals)
5. Keeping free of clutter
4. Publicly sharing your goal
5. Frequent monitoring/tracking your efforts and progress
6. Using a “bright line” (their example is Raymond Chandler’s I will write or do nothing for x amount of time per day–and by nothing he means nothing. No reading, writing letters, planning, paying bills, etc.)
7. Keeping the long term in mind
8. Having a monthly plan for the goal, which allows for more flexibility than a daily plan
9. Planning highly specific responses for temptations (implementation intention)
10. Using positive procrastination (I won’t have that dessert now, but I will have it later)
11. Rewarding yourself often

(This list is from my notes on the book, the summary list the authors came up with has a narrower focus)

Armed with my new-found knowledge of willpower, I laid out my writing goals for the year:

1. Complete one New Book, Start to Finish
2. Re-work my Two Completed Books

And my personal Goals for the Year

1. Run: Complete the couch to 5K program (I’m already mid-way through week 5!) and continue to run 3x a week
2. Add weight work

And, just in time to keep me on track is the Ruby Sisters Winter Writing Festival. With the Writing Festival’s self defined goals, points awarded for achievement, public involvement,it’s a perfect motivational (read will-building) tool.

Whatever your goals are, I wish you success. And if one of your goals is to read a fascinating book on cutting-edge psychological research, I recommend Willpower.

3 Responses to Goal Setting with "Willpower"

  • This is excellent for the new year, Wendy.  I always think of writing a book from start to finish as conditioning for a mental marathon.  Best of luck with all your goals!

  • Hi Miranda!!  It IS a mental marathon. I don’t know why I always thing I should know everything about a book at once…it’s always a process.

  • Yes, a long process 🙂

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