Willpower Your Way To Happiness

The link between willpower and happiness

Willpower has a strong link to happiness. An experiment by Mischel called the marshmallow test, as seen in the video below, made this link more apparent. This experiment gave children the choice of having one marshmallow immediately or waiting for a period of time and getting two marshmallows. Take a look:


Mischel discovered that the children who had been best at delaying gratification at age 4 went on in later life to have the best academic results, to be the most popular, to earn the highest salaries and to have the lowest body mass index BMI compared to their peers in the test. The children with lower self-control tended to be worse off financially, to work in lower paid jobs, to have little money in the bank and to be unlikely to own their own home or to have saved for their retirement.

The evidence is mounting that willpower is a strength worth cultivating. The first step in becoming better at self-control is to set yourself very clear goals and these goals need to be aligned with your values. Here are some steps you can take to start working on your willpower:

  • If you are not clear on your values then take the http://www.viacharacter.org/www/ or http://www.strengthsfinder.com/home.aspx survey to discover what your values are.
  • Set yourself some specific goals which are aligned with these values.
  • Decide on one goal to focus on at a time and get ready to take action.

Once you have your new goals the best way to ensure that you are successful at your will power challenges is to:

  1. Get some exercise- Just 15 minutes on a treadmill can reduce cigarette cravings, for example, and a short brisk walk can reduce the urge to eat chocolate – so every little helps.
  2. Get enough sleep- From a willpower perspective sleep is crucial. If we are suffering from sleep deprivation we are much less likely to meet our willpower challenges (particularly when it comes to resisting almonds in my case).
  3. Relax- Taking time for relaxation every day has huge benefits from the point of view of maximizing your willpower. You do not need to become a mindfulness master in order to reap the benefits of relaxation. Even just relaxing for a few minutes can move your body into a reparative and healing state which enhances your immune function and lowers your stress hormones.

The results are amazing. Small steps can show huge results. Try out these exercises and share your results with us? Have you taken a willpower challenge and succeeded?