Join our community of Solution Seekers!

New Year, New You

5 Ways to Increase Your Willpower

The following five strategies will help you hold your ground—no matter what temptations are luring you in the opposite direction.

By Stephanie Booth
Illustration of a big street sign with images of classic temptationsLeif Parsons

4. Choose a Reward in Advance

When changing your behavior (like trying to exercise each day), pick something—whether it’s a piece of chocolate or relaxing on the couch for 30 minutes—that you’ll treat yourself to once you’ve accomplished your objective. It could be months before you enjoy exercise on its own merits. So, in the meantime, when you look at your running shoes, you should think, I’m going jogging because I want the prize that is waiting for me when I finish my workout. Placing all your attention on the end goal keeps you from being as focused on the pain or effort of the activity itself.

Charles Duhigg is a New York City–based investigative reporter for the New York Times and the author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It ($28,, to be released in March.

5. Chill

Has beating yourself up ever helped you stick to a diet or stay within your budget? Probably not. You may even have ended up indulging more. (To wit: People with credit-card debt who are hard on themselves tend to rack up bigger charges than they would have otherwise.) Instead, ask yourself this: When am I likely to err again, and how will I prevent that from happening? Once you’ve figured out how to avoid the problem in the future, let it go.

Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., is a health psychologist at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California, and the author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It ($26,


Read More About:Inspiration & Motivation

Related Content

Yellow flip-flops

Fun Summer Activities Checklist

Need inspiration for summer fun? Check out this list and see how many you can cross off before Labor Day hits.

What do you think about this article? Share your own solutions and ideas

View Earlier Comments

Quick Tip

Illustration of suitcases

Packing for a family vacation? Travel versions of favorite games won’t crowd suitcases, and playing them will keep kids from begging to watch TV at night. Get more tips.