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Willpower Is a Trait, Skill, and Muscle That Determines Success


It won't surprise you when I say that willpower is one of the strongest determining factors for individual success. But it might surprise you to learn just how multifaceted willpower or discipline (whatever you want to call it) actually is. Willpower isn't just a word; it's a trait, skill, and muscle.

What do I mean by this? I'm glad you asked. 

Willpower is a trait 

We’re born with a certain amount of willpower and discipline. A study done with four-year-olds demonstrated this 

The researchers put the kids in a room and offered each of them a marshmallow. They told each child, "You can have the marshmallow right now if you like. But you can have two if you can wait until I return to the room." Of course, some kids ate the marshmallow right away, while others had the willpower to wait and earn the second marshmallow.  

The researchers followed up with these kids once they reached high school. They found that the kids who had the willpower to wait for the second marshmallow performed better in school. They had better grades because they had more disciplined study habits and outperformed their less-disciplined counterparts by over 200 points on the SATs. 

Willpower is a skill 

The good news is that you aren’t limited to the amount of willpower you’re born with. Willpower is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and expanded.

While there is no single way to increase one's willpower, the following will help you get started. 

  • Set clear goals and priorities: Define what you want to achieve and why it's important. Break down your goals into smaller, manageable tasks. 
  • Establish healthy habits: Develop routines such as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep to reduce reliance on willpower. 
  • Manage stress and prioritize self-care:  Practice stress-reduction techniques like meditation and engage in activities that promote relaxation and well-being. 
  • Practice self-discipline consistently: Make choices aligned with your goals, even when it's challenging. Start small, celebrate victories, and learn from setbacks. 
  • Seek support and accountability: Surround yourself with encouraging individuals, seek support groups or accountability partners, and celebrate progress together. 

If these steps resonate with you, that's terrific. However, if they don't, a little research will give you a plan to help you build your willpower skills. 

Willpower is a muscle 

If willpower were purely an expandable skill, it would be consistent in our lives. After all, if you can paint a picture on Tuesday, you also have the skill to paint a comparable picture on Saturday.  

However, we are all painfully aware that while we may have great willpower on Wednesday, depending on how much we used that day, we may not have comparable willpower on Thursday. We’ve all experienced ebbs and flows of our willpower: sometimes from one day to the next, sometimes from hour to hour. 

This brings me to one of the most fascinating aspects of willpower: recognizing its similarity to a muscle. Like a muscle, our willpower becomes stronger as we use it regularly. But, also like a muscle, our willpower gets fatigued and eventually fails when pushed to its limits. 

Understanding your patterns of willpower, and its highs and lows, is critical to managing challenging and unpleasant tasks that require extra willpower. Let's take prospecting as an example. 

You've likely heard me say:

“Prospecting is the scariest, most difficult part of a scary and difficult job (selling).”

We all know prospecting consistently takes an abundance of willpower. 

Identify particular days of your week or times of your day that aren't typically preceded by stress or other willpower-depleting circumstances. This ensures your willpower reserve is full. Scheduling your prospecting times around these periods of maximum willpower provides you the ability and energy to push through. 

Happy prospecting and selling, my friends. 

Goose can help 

We have built an online platform called "Goose: Your Ultimate Wingman" to help you implement these types of growth ideas. In it, you will find the training program you need for predictable growth and all the resources, conversations, and analysis tools necessary to establish habits that will drive growth throughout your career. To learn how Goose may help drive your growth, check out our website at Or feel free to connect with or contact me directly on LinkedIn.    


Content originally published on Q4intelligence