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Willpower and Self-Control: 10 Keys to Strengthening Your Resolve

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Willpower is a form of self-control. Someone with a strong sense of willpower has self-awareness and the ability to use thought-out decision-making skills. Too often we hear about people who lack willpower. There are quite a few individuals who have the extraordinary ability to control their impulses and exercise restraint. Willpower might not come naturally to you, but it’s something you can develop with practice.

Sometimes we lack self-control because we do not have a clear idea of exactly what it is we want. For example, if it feels like you are going nowhere in your current job, or are unsatisfied in your marriage or relationship, you must first make sure this is not happening because you’re unsure of where to go next. When you have a clear goal, it is easier to exercise self-control and willpower because you can then make choices that put you in the right direction.

Self-control and willpower are not something that only governs our physical bodies. Self-control and willpower are important when it comes to our emotions too. Having a proper amount of self-control is what prevents us from screaming at others when angry (even if the situation is their fault) or trying to hit or punch someone when they wrong us. It stops us from crying uncontrollably when we do not get our way or becoming overly active or distracted in situations that require attention or patience.

Neither willpower nor self-control are traits we are born with. Although we learn to self-soothe as babies (such as when sucking on a pacifier), we continually develop this skill throughout our childhood (and arguably our entire lives). This is why it is not unusual to see a toddler throw a toy across the room when upset, while the same behavior would be bizarre in a grown adult.

Sometimes, individuals do reach adulthood with too little or too much self-control in their lives. Neither situation is ideal.

Aside from having many physical and emotional challenges throughout adulthood, there will also be many social and mental effects (think isolation, depression or anxiety). You might be wondering what a healthy amount of self-control or willpower looks like, but to best understand that, it is important to know what red flags look like first.

Signe of Too Much Self-Control

Self-control is usually a quality that people find admirable. However, when there is too much of it, the results can be crippling. Sometimes, people suffering from excessive self-control can come off as perfectionists or overbearing. Experts have coined their behavior as “overcontrol.” Someone dealing with “overcontrol” might be guilty of the following:

  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Distance toward others
  • Rigid personality
  • Overly focused on details
  • Lack of feelings or display of feelings
  • Responsible (to a fault)
  • Avoidance of risk-taking

People with too much self-control and/or willpower often do not get noticed as easily as those who lack it. This is because their behaviors are often confused with someone who is hard-working, introvertive or sensible. So, where does the line between too much self-control and a mature personality cross? It depends on the individual.

If someone’s behaviors work for them in their lives and cause little to no distress, in all likelihood, their personality can account for their actions. But, if someone’s excess of self-control makes their physical, mental, emotional or social life a challenge, they may benefit from finding a more moderate approach.

Signs of Too Little Self-Control

Someone who lacks self-control is easy to spot. Mostly because they have difficulty committing to a positive behavior or because they do not have the same ability to regulate their feelings or actions that most of their peers do. Signs of low self-control might look like:

  • Little or no self-discipline
  • Lack of goals or inability to reach goals
  • Low motivation
  • Little to no willpower
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Lack of attention
  • Quick to blame others
  • Difficulty maintaining friendships
  • Dangerous or overly passive lifestyle

Having little self-control (or none at all) has a major impact on day-to-day living. Not only is it difficult to build self-confidence, but it is also hard to work with others and make a difference in one’s own life. If someone runs into the same barriers over and over again, it is likely their self-control needs some work. Likewise, if they seem to have a general lack of direction or come off as immature to others, self-control might be the cause.

Learn How to Have the Perfect Amount of Self Control

Everyone has different levels of self-control and willpower, but most people could use a boost to reach a balance between too little and too much.  If this is an issue for you, my Total Transformation Program is exactly what you need to acquire the mental tools and skills to attain the perfect balance.

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Dr. Sydney Ceruto

A Pioneer in Neuroscience-Based Coaching

As the founder of MindLAB Neuroscience, Dr. Sydney Ceruto has been a leading force in integrating neuroscience into coaching and counseling for over two decades. With three master's degrees in psychology and two PhDs in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, she is widely considered a top expert in her field.

Harnessing the power of neuroscience-based coaching, Dr. Ceruto's innovative approach focuses on neuroscience, neuroplasticity, and neural pathway rewiring to foster lasting positive change in mental health.

Dr. Ceruto holds esteemed memberships in the Forbes Executive Council, Positive Performance Alliance, Wharton Executive Education Program, the International Society of Female Professionals, and executive writing positions for Alternatives Watch, Brainz Magazine, and TED: Ideas Worth Spreading.

Dr. Ceruto's accomplishments include:

  • The 2022 CREA Award.
  • A lead research position at NYU Steinhardt.
  • Volunteer work with Covenant House and the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI).

Her science-backed method of Neural Rewiring has successfully guided thousands of clients toward happier, more productive, and more resilient lives.