How to develop will power

Presenting two scientifically proven ways to develop willpower. They will help you avoid overeating and keep consistent with your trainings, even when it seems like the whole world is against you.


In the late 60’s, the American psychologist Walter Michelle held the famous “Marshmallow test”. Below, you will find its funny modern version.

Four-year-olds were invited to a small room, where there was only a chair and a table with a tray of sweets. The children were offered to take for themselves one biscuit, marshmallow or something else for their choice.

They could eat the treat:

  1. at once,
  2. wait a few minutes alone, until the adult returns, and get one more as a reward.

The majority (several hundred children took part in the experiment) agreed to wait, while only few could stand the test:

  • The first to break up in just 30 seconds were those, who were constantly looking at the goodies, sniffing and touching them.
  • The last standing, for 10-15 minutes, were children, who managed to distract themselves in a way or another. They closed their eyes to not see the sweet, sang songs, untied and tied shoelaces on their shoes, played hide and seek under the table with themselves, or pretended to sleep.

Marshmallow test

The latter did not overcome the temptation of will power. They simply forgot about it for a while, and “cooled” the temptation. “By nature, we all have the same weak willpower,” explains Walter Michelle, “if you decide to squeeze your teeth and by all means NOT eat the marshmallow, you are sure to eat it.”

It turns out that the willpower is not to resist, but to switch the attention.

“Once you understand that will power depends on your ability to control your attention and thoughts, you will feel that you have it,”

says Michel.

Then, the four-year-olds, who could not sit in front of the marshmallow for more than 60 seconds, were suggested how to cool down the desire:

“imagine that the marshmallow is an inedible cloud”,
“imagine that the candy is just a picture in the frame”.

Once offered to imagine these, the kids quietly stayed 15 minutes until they received the second treat for their patience.

Most interesting: ten years later, Michel decided to find out the fate of the grown-up test participants. It turned out that those, who managed to stand the marshmallow test, putting off the pleasure for a while, achieved great success at school and felt happier.

Another decade later, these already grown-up children had no problems with excess weight and alcohol, and they coped better with life stresses.

Conclusion: do you feel like eating something? Switch your attention. Instead of thinking “I will not eat this donut”, you just need to get up and do something else.


Willpower is an unusual resource of the brain. It is quickly consumed, when we perform a sequence or combination of several actions that require conation. In the scientific experiment of the American psychologist Roy Baummeister,

  • one group was asked to muster up their will power and eat a bowl of radish,
  • another group was offered delicious cookies.

Then, both groups were put to solve the most complicated puzzle. After the tasteless vegetables, the participants were giving up on an average after 8 minutes. While the group that enjoyed the cookies continued taking great pains over the head scratcher at least twice as long.

Roy Baumeister

The reserve of will power can be replenished

Here is a list of stressful situations, which make the reserves of our willpower quickly melt away:

  • appetizing food, when we forbid ourselves to eat it;
  • suppression of emotions, aggressive and sexual impulses;
  • passing exams;
  • an attempt to impress someone.

*If we are tired or have not had sufficient sleep, will power also weakens.

The good news is that the power resource can be replenished. The more regularly you use willpower, the more of it you have. Psychologists watched people, who were engaged in fitness without missing any planned training for two months in a row. They have shown to:

  • rarely make impulsive purchases,
  • rarely be enticed by harmful fast food, cigarettes and alcohol,
  • spend more time studying and doing housework, and less time watching TV.

As studies show, even such a simple task as brushing your teeth with the other hand for 2 weeks helps to strengthen the willpower. It looks like circles on the water, forming from a pebble you throw in it:

A small effort of will improves your mood and self-esteem, you become more organized in all areas of your life.

Conclusion: achieve short-term goals, and they will help you in the long run. For example, do not miss Italian lessons 2 times a week and you will lose 5 extra kilograms in a month without even noticing it.