There are perhaps more avenues available today for aspiring entrepreneurs to capitalise on than there have ever been before, with tools such as the Internet opening extraordinary vistas of possibility for the average person.
What’s more, there are a virtually limitless number of opportunities out there today for exploring your creative side, ranging from sophisticated 3D printers like the Creality Ender 3 to web-based guides for everything from painting to learning to sing.
It’s not hard for most of us to think of ways in which we could hypothetically establish ourselves as creative entrepreneurs, and completely transform the course of our lives in so doing.
It’s just that actually starting up your own business, or trying to monetise a creative interest of yours, requires plenty of sophisticated planning, strategic thinking, and – not least of all – willpower.
In fact, an insufficient supply of willpower often seems to be at the heart of why our loftiest dreams and ambitions so frequently end up going nowhere.
Kelly McGonigal is a psychologist and author who has written a definitive book on boosting willpower – titled “The Willpower Instinct.” Here are a few tips for developing your willpower, largely drawn from that book.
Slow your breathing and pay attention to your heart rate
According to McGonigal, research has found that a specific metric of heart health and function known as “HRV” – or, Heart Rate Variability – appears to be an excellent predictor of how much will power someone has available.
To cut a long story short, a higher HRV (not the same as a rapid heart rate) means more willpower. And HRV is higher when we are in low-stress states, and lower when we are anxious, excited, loaded up on stimulants, and so on.
McGonigal suggests that slowing your breathing is an excellent way of calming yourself down and erasing your HRV when you may be overly anxious or excited – which also means, of course, that slowing your breathing can be an excellent way of boosting your willpower.
Any other daily routines and practices you can pick up that may help you to calm down are also likely to work wonders for your willpower – including, for example, mindfulness meditation involving focusing your awareness on your breath, and gently redirecting your attention to your breath every time your mind wanders.
Oh, and get enough sleep. That’s a really big deal, too.
“Practice” willpower each day, in small ways
It is argued that willpower ends up working something like a muscle – to the extent that your willpower can become “depleted” when you are forced to deal with many taxing tasks in a set period of time.
Willpower appears to be something like a muscle in another way, too. Every time you successfully utilise your willpower in ways both big and small, your “willpower reserve” potentially strengthens and increases for the future.
Just like when working out at the gym, there is a sweet spot to hit here. You want to “practice” willpower each day in manageable ways, but you don’t want to burn through your available willpower reserve and leave yourself more likely to procrastinate or stray from the path as a result.
Adding small “willpower exercise” routines and rituals to your day can be a good way of striking this balance. For example, you could have a jar of treats positioned strategically next to your front door, and could then give your willpower a workout by refusing to take a treat when leaving or entering the house.
It may be useful to know that if you do exhaust your willpower stores, having something to eat, including a bit of simple sugar, may help to restore some of your willpower.
“Vote” for the kind of person you want to be with your habits
Have you ever noticed that it doesn’t usually take very much willpower to act out habits that you’ve been routinely performing for years at a stretch?
In some sense, that’s almost the point of a habit. That a particular behaviour becomes ingrained and automated in our psyches, to the point where we need far less willpower to act it out than we would if it wasn’t habitual.
If you’re constantly chasing big goals, and are trying to grind through absolutely soul-crushing workouts in order to hit some largely arbitrary waypoints such as “lose 30lbs,” your willpower is going to be tested to its limits.
If, however, you take the approach of focusing on your everyday habits instead, you may be able to get even more done while expending significantly less willpower.
A useful trick here is to view each successful performance of a given habit as a “vote” for the kind of person you want to be. The idea is to “be the kind of person who works out,” not “to lose 30lbs.”