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Wow your willpower – benefits for you, your people and your business

Lucy Hennessy | 4th March 2020

We all have goals in life. Whether it is to secure that promotion, improve our time management or to sustain a healthier lifestyle. We have an ideal self in-sight but can be left feeling defeated when we fail to meet that ideal. To help avoid failure, a strong willpower is a necessary skill.

The American Psychological Association defines willpower as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.”  During our working week, we experience endless distractions and you may feel your self-control is tested. Fear not. The more you exercise your willpower, the stronger it gets! We can supercharge our willpower and create a more focussed and productive workplace.

How the brain affects decision-making

When we are faced with a decision to make our willpower is tested. The brain is responsible for our decision-making. However, decision making isn’t always that easy! 

Within our brains, there are various regions that fight for our attention. Let’s take the example that you have decided to cut down on sugar and opt for a healthier diet. Then someone brings a batch of delicious smelling doughnuts into the office, they’re in your environment and your brain has now acknowledged them. As a result, this causes the reward system in the limbic system of the brain to be activated. Now this region is hugely influential in decision making because your body craves such pleasure and feel-good chemicals to be induced. 

When this part of the brain is activated it leads towards receiving immediate gratification and can, therefore, be extremely tempting. To complicate decision making further, the final region you battle is the executive system which is located in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. This system is responsible for voluntary and conscious decisions and is able to override such temptations. It’s the prefrontal cortex that’s responsible for willpower! It is here where we can control and train the mind’s ability to override a tempting impulse and stay focused on long term goals (i.e. resist the doughnuts!)

Willpower is key for your people and your business

Willpower is extremely beneficial for your people and your business as “Research indicates that self-control contributes to happiness, greater financial security, and a better predictor of performance.” – Fast Company

If your employees are able to improve self-control, their performance will increase. This is backed by personal development author Dan Millman, “Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel.”  

If your people can harness their willpower it will ensure a highly productive day. If they learn to override procrastination; less time will be wasted, goals will be met and productivity will be multiplied. 

The interesting thing is, the more you exercise your willpower, the stronger it gets. If your employees are trained on this mindset from the very beginning of their onboarding process, this will produce a habit. If the entire team gains this habit this will produce a domino effect on the culture, creating a highly productive and successful workplace. Unfortunately, a recent survey identified “surveys of more than 1 million people show that self-control is the character trait modern men and women recognise least in themselves.” Strategies need to be put in place to educate employees that it isn’t too late to supercharge their willpower. Read on to find out how to create a workplace of willpower!

How to create a workplace of willpower

Make a plan:

If you organise what goals you would like to achieve the next day, month or even year you’re already halfway there by pre-committing. The conscious decision has already been made without having to draw on willpower in the moment. In your plan, consider priority tasks, regular breaks and limit the distractions to help you on your way. Soon enough, this will become a habit! Establish how your endeavours will positively improve your job and you’ll have a clear vision of why it is valuable to stay motivated.

Fuel your brain:

Evidence suggests that willpower-depleted individuals might be low on body fuel. The brain is powered by glucose (blood sugar). Our brain cells are working hard to maintain self-control and therefore may consume glucose faster than it can be replenished. Eating regularly to maintain blood sugar levels in the brain may help refuel your willpower. If your goal is diet-related just ensure you choose healthier options!

Educate and learn

Consider investing in an expert coach to pitch to your people at a lunch-and-learn or company event. This will educate them further on supercharging willpower in business and the neuroscience behind it. If all of your employees learn together, they will be more likely to create a holistic, motivated and productive environment!

Meditate:

Reasons to meditate are forever pouring in. Research indicates that just three hours of meditation can increase self-control and focus.  After eleven hours, changes in the brain are visible. Meditation trains your pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain associated with ignoring temptations) and enhances your strength to do what is difficult, rather than what is automatic and tempting. Many brilliant apps can help you to get started e.g. Headspace or Calm. 

Celebrate:

Lots of businesses are now looking into ways to boost employee engagement. If you engage your employees, this can boost willpower! Suggestions include, organised fun outside the office e.g. bowling or a staff sports day as a treat for everyone. A weekly review to communicate the successes that working week, employee nominations for those who have worked hard to achieve goals. A final tip is to download Slack – it’s a to-do-list that celebrates every time you complete something! Go you!


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