6 Ridiculous Hacks for Improving Your Willpower

Each week, you work hard at your job, attend class regularly, and do your best to maintain the relationships in your life. And if you’re reading this right now, there’s a big chance you’re seeking to improve your health, so kudos to you!

But as much as we are goal-diggers, we are also human. And sometimes, when that irritating iPhone alarm starts to chime at 6:30 a.m. for HIIT class, or you’re off work late and have to choose between rice and veggies or Seamless takeout, it can be monumentally difficult to muster up the energy, courage and willpower to make the right choice.

While there’s really no secret sauce to achieving your health-related goals, there are small but effective hacks that can make your effort just a tiny bit more effective. Here, therapists and life coaches share seven of those hacks, in addition to ways you can incorporate them into your everyday life.

There’s an app for that

From hailing rides to finding dates to monitoring our health, mobile apps have transformed the way we live, work and connect. So why shouldn’t those same amazing capabilities extend to our willpower, too?

“There are so many great apps for reminders or tracking progress on your goals,” explains Michael Hilgers, a licensed professional counselor in Austin, Texas. “However, it’s important to do your research and experiment to find out what works best for you.”

Some suggestions from us: The Mint (for tracking your finances), My Fitness Pal (for counting calories and tracking workouts), Google Calendar (for setting reminders) and Freedom for Mac (for completely disconnecting from technology and focusing on your goals).

Tell your BFF your goals

If you are a no-show for your 7 a.m. spin class, it’s no sweat. But if you’re simultaneously bailing on your BFF, that’s a pretty crappy move. Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist, recommends using that same mindset when working towards your goals.

“Accountability is critical when sticking to your goals,” explains Dr. Hafeez. “If you have a friend texting you or calling you with a wake-up call, you’ll be more inclined to stick to the desired action.”

A few other suggestions for improving accountability: scheduling regular check-ins with your buddy and setting the same goals.  

Treat yo’self

Although it might seem like mustering willpower to make the right choice is all about being tough and relentless, sometimes it pays to indulge, too.

“Make a list of things you’d like to buy for yourself at the end of each week. When you complete a full week doing the new behavior, celebrate your willpower with a reward,” says Hafeez.

If you’re focusing on eating healthier or exercising more, try opting for a new item of clothing or piece of jewelry once you meet your goals. If you’re trying to save money and spend less, consider limiting your indulgent purchases to a once-per-week occasion.

Visualize what you want

According to Hilgers, sometimes the most effective way to muster willpower is to simply extend your goals from mind to paper.

“Write down your goal on Post-it notes and place them on the bathroom mirror, your car dashboard and computer screen,” he suggests. “Also, cut out pictures that represent your goal and place them in similar places. This can help keep you focused and motivated.”

See how one ambitious individual created a vision board to achieve her New Year’s Resolutions in 2016.

Break things down into smaller chunks

If your ultimate goal is to lose 30 pounds by the end of 2017, chances are, you’ll have some difficulty keeping your eye on the finish line. But according to Eveline Traxler, a mindset coach, breaking down those big goals into small, more manageable tasks can make achieving them easier.

“Start small with goals that you know you can achieve easily,” she says. “By breaking down the steps into small, super manageable chunks, we are much more likely to be able to move forward on a project or task. We are also able to see success much sooner, and have something to celebrate!”

Embrace the suck

While there are several ways to trick your mind into thinking a task is more easily achievable than it actually is, according to Hilgers, sometimes you just need to embrace the suck.

“Every single person I know has amazing ideas. Few actually pursue them. You have to be willing to put in the work for what you want,” he explains. “There are seldom shortcuts to this. At the end of the day, you just have to do it. One piece at a time, one day at a time.”

Julia Sullivan is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. When she's not picking heavy things up and setting them down again (more commonly known as weight lifting), trying to prepare healthy meals in her doll-sized Manhattan studio or writing about the latest fitness craze, she chronicles her zany adventures as a new New Yorker in her blog, Jules & the City. You can also follow her on Twitter.