Self Control and Willpower

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Self Control and Willpower are very important. Not only to setting and completing your goals, but in every aspect of your life. It has been shown not only to help people attain a successful life, but also a longer life. But what can we do if we don’t have self control? We can actually take steps to achieve self control: We need to identify the need for change, identify possible barriers, create a plan of action, monitor progress, maintain and manage, and cope with relapse

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

2 Peter 1:5-7, NIV

I have to confess something – I have almost no self control. I am 52 years old and there are times when I go on automatic and freewheel down that hill of temptation – then I crash at the bottom into a container of Oreo cookies. I am not comfortable with the way I look, I find it difficult to fit into the clothes I wear, but when the urge strikes me, I forget what I look like and dive right into that bowl of ice cream, swimming in it, indulging in it, enjoying it. Then I look at myself in the mirror and think “What the hell Thom?”

Willpower is what controls our urges – self control. This “superpower” can be tied to success, wealth and longlife. Some of us are born with the ability to control ourselves, while others – like me – give into urges quite frequently. For instance, my wife has the willpower of a bull, whereas I only display “won’t power.” We both have decided to lose some weight, however, last night – my son-in-law came home with some ice cream. I folded like cheap lawn furniture, but my wife was resolute.

The Need for Change

Can you identify what you would like to change in your life. Is it that you are severely in debt? Have you gained a little too much COVID weight? Are you trying to stop drinking alcohol? Maybe you want to quit smoking? The point is you need to identify what needs to change. You cannot change something until you want to.

Unfortunately this need for change cannot be a need brought about by another person, because you will need to want to change. “But what if the life I have is perfect? I don’t have anything that I want to change.” Well if that is you, you are doing better than most of the world right now. 

Identify Possible Barriers

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Let us pretend that during COVID you started eating more junk food, you have sat on your couch – binging on 90’s sitcom reruns and eating Doritos, Cheetos and fast food take out. You start wearing sweats, because your jeans don’t fit anymore, and the living room is starting to smell like stale popcorn and beer. So maybe you have identified that you want to start eating better and exercise a little more.

What are some of the barriers that might prevent you from this goal? Well if you still have junk food in your house, this is going to be a hard barrier to cross. So you need to get rid of all of your junk food – toss out those cheesy flavored chips, processed cheese in a can and bags of puffed corn noodles. When you go to the grocery store avoid the areas that have the junk food. One nutritionist suggested that if you only shop the outside perimeter of the store. All of the junk and processed foods are on the interior.

Create a Plan of Action

So why is an action plan important? It is a physical representation of your desire to change. You want to put your goals onto paper, if you don’t want to use paper and pencil, there are dozens of apps online for goal planning. Putting your goals where you can see them is important so you are reminded daily – if not more often – what you are trying to achieve.

What does an action plan look like? There is no strict formula for creating your action plan. Your action plan should have a title, steps you plan to take and how long you want to take to accomplish your goal.

An action plan is great, but don’t let your action plan destroy your dreams. Make your action plan realistic. If you have been a pack-a-day smoker for twenty years, don’t expect to be smoke free in three months. Also don’t get discouraged if you are still working towards your goal, but the time has elapsed. Keep your action plan fluid, make adjustments as necessary.

Monitor Progress

Journaling is a great tool, because you need to track how you are doing, write down what struggles you had. Don’t get angry at yourself for your struggles – struggles happen and are part of your journey. Write down your successes. Celebrate your successes, but don’t let your celebration crash your progress.

Maintain and Manage

Once you meet your goal, you are not finished. You see the whole idea around self control and willpower is that your willpower is like a muscle – you are getting stronger. However, like working out at a gym, just because you have reached your goal, doesn’t mean you stop. You have to keep going. 


Sometimes it happens, we work hard at what we want to accomplish, and then… The bottom drops out of what we are doing, and we fall flat on our backs. We indulge in whatever we quit in the first place. 

About six years ago (I touched on this in a previous post), my wife and I went on the Palio diet. I lost 50lbs in about 3 months. It was amazing, but it was also a struggle. My wife lost a lot of weight as well. Then we went on a trip to see the birth of our granddaughter, and we could not maintain the diet. We fell hard off the wagon, and we went back to how we were before. 

We have tried to restart, but it has been unsuccessful. However, relapses are like that. We struggle so hard, but when the struggle is over, and we fall back into the same old habits, we plummet hard.

However, you can restart. It will be hard, just start from the top and go through it again.

Self control is difficult, denying ourselves is a hard practice, but if we are trying to accomplish a specific goal, then we need to be strong about it and persevere. If we can break it down and keep reminding ourselves what is important and what is needed to accomplish our goal, then we will become stronger for it. If you need, reach out and get some help, you don’t have to do this alone; however, You can do it, I know you can.


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