Your willpower is like a muscle, which means that you can train it. To build a muscle, you must apply resistance, embrace the pain, and push through. Likewise, with willpower and self-discipline—they grow through friction. Embrace that pain, and don’t shy away!
In this summary, I talk about the Fire and Water elements in our personality. Exercising willpower to achieve your goals increases your inner fire because friction creates heat. In the spiritual traditions of India, this psychological heat is called tapas (not to be confused with Spanish snacks), and it is considered central to self-transformation. Unimaginable things are possible through willpower and tapas.
A piece of solid iron can be molded—if it’s hot enough. Exercising your willpower daily generates the inner heat that allows you to mold your life—and yourself—to your design. This is the key to self-transformation.
Therefore, exercise your willpower every day. Invite this inner heat. Rejoice in it.
Developing self-discipline to achieve your goals and aspirations is a natural way of exercising your willpower. This is what Mindful Self-Discipline is all about.
A simpler willpower exercise is to choose to do something difficult, however small, every day. If it generates psychological heat, if it stretches you, it is a form of tapas. I call this willpower challenge.
Choose a small commitment every morning—something meaningful and challenging—and keep it throughout your day, no matter what. Here are some examples:
|Today I will||Today I will not|
|Take a short, cold shower||Complain|
|Practice intermittent fasting||Swear|
|Feel grateful whenever I say “thank you”||Slouch|
|Cultivate optimism||Drink coffee|
|Speak when I see injustice||Eat sugar|
|Breathe deeply before unlocking my phone||Argue meaninglessly|
|Be in bed by 10pm||Use social media|
|Have one difficult conversation||Interrupt others|
|Do something I’ve been postponing||Watch TV or play games|
|Exercise 30 extra minutes||Snooze my alarm|
|Hold eye contact with people||Eat junk food|
|Say “no” when I need to||Bite my fingernails/lips/cheeks|
|Be friendly toward everyone||Check work email outside working hours|
|Think before I talk||Gossip|
|Be on time||Indulge in negative feelings|
|Speak kindly and truthfully||Say harsh words|
Focus on a different challenge from the list (or make one up) every day, for 21 days. This simple practice exercises not only your willpower, but also your self-awareness skills.
During the exercise, don’t avoid the challenge or run away from the temptation, as that defeats the purpose. Live life as normal, and meet the challenges that come. If you feel ambitious, turn the heat up by exposing yourself to more temptation.
After 21 days of this practice, your willpower will be stronger. You can then use it to change a particular behavior, and focus on that intention for 21 days in a row. Or you can go for another round, with a different challenge every day. Be creative about it!
If these challenges feel unachievable, don’t worry about being perfect at them. The point is to just continuously exercise your willpower muscle, and stretch your limits. The stronger your willpower becomes, the more you are able to be the person you want to be, and live the life you want to live.