Willpower: The Force of Greatness

The world is full of obstacles that try to break our will and make us give up on what we want. The ability to conquer these challenges and persevere against the odds can be fostered by this force, which is both physical and mental in nature. Today’s article discusses willpower as a keystone for success.,

The “art of manliness” is a website that provides articles on how to live a better life. The site includes information on habits that help one to build willpower, such as meditation and exercise. Read more in detail here: art of manliness habits.

Vintage young men pulling ropes.

What are some of your regrets from the previous year?

Having trouble sticking to a workout routine?

Have you ever lost a girlfriend because you strayed?

Have you ever failed a class?

Are you causing harm to a loved one because of your rage?

What New Year’s resolutions have you made?

Do you want to lose 20 pounds?

Do you want to get up sooner in the morning?

Trying to cut down on your spending?

Would you want to spend less time idly exploring the web?

Regrets and resolves are two words that come to mind while thinking about regrets. What is it that they all share in common? Willpower. There is a need for and a shortage of.

But what exactly is willpower? You’ve certainly heard the word before, but it seems to be a quite abstract force. You may believe that it is something intrinsic, and that some guys are born with more of it than others. It’s something you probably wish you had more of but don’t know how to go about getting.

The good news is that willpower is a genuine energy source that can be drained, strengthened, and preserved. And the guy who learns to control his willpower and tap into this fuel obtains some of the most important information he can have: how to make himself and his life whatever he wants them to be.

The Evolution of Willpower

“Self-control is the same as self-mastery.” It is the throne of all life. You sit at the heart of your being. A throne should be your seat. You are not the king you should be if you are not in command, if there are any rebellious elements in your nature that refuse to recognise your authority. A portion of your kingdom is on the verge of revolt. Your life’s power is split. “A powerful guy is one who submits his whole existence to him.” -From James Russell Miller’s 1911 book The Beauty of Self-Control

The nature and value of willpower were grasped by our forefathers, forgotten through time, and then rediscovered and polished by contemporary science, like with many important facts.

Willpower became popular in the nineteenth century, at the period of the Industrial Revolution. People’s imaginations shifted to considering the amazing accomplishments the human machine would be capable of by channeling a new sort of fuel source: willpower, as they witnessed how steam could be captured and transformed into useful energy. A man’s “power of will” or “moral resistance” was viewed as the most important trait for reaching those aims in a period when a successful life was defined by the pursuit of character and virtue. A man with iron-clad self-control never wavered from his mission or code of integrity, no matter what temptations he faced. He guided his own route, come what may, as the captain of his destiny. No status or fortune could ever compare to the greatest achievement of all…mastery over one’s own self.

The Progressive movement of the early twentieth century diminished this celebration of willpower by emphasizing people’s environmental surroundings rather than their inner attributes as deciding their destiny. Progressives maintained that poverty and crime were caused by a person’s poor upbringing and wretched circumstances, not by their lack of self-control.


During WWII, the phrase acquired certain negative connotations as a result of the publication of the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. Willpower was also pushed to the background in postwar America by the rise of consumer culture—after all, self-control is bad for business. The 1960s hippies promoted the adage “if it feels good, do it” as a life guiding concept. Throughout the twentieth century, the concept of self-help gurus like Norman Vincent Peale and Napoleon Hill, who promoted positive thinking as a path to success, remained popular.

This year has seen the publication of a slew of publications that call into question how much free will and agency we really have. Psychologists and philosophers say that humans are profoundly illogical individuals whose activities are mostly influenced by their unconscious brains, citing research and studies to support their claims.

At the same time, other psychologists have resurrected interest in the concept of willpower, demonstrating in studies that it is not only a real and enormously vital energy, but that believing in it does not require invariably blaming the victim for their misfortunes (an understanding of willpower can illuminate just how external factors affect the downtrodden), nor does it automatically place you in the ranks of the cruel goose stepper (having strong self-control is linked to greater levels of empathy and altruism, not less).

Willpower and Its Importance

“That magnificent gift [the Will] comprises the lofty privilege bestowed to each man to test how much he will create of himself.” It is endowed with abilities that will allow him to attain the most valuable of all possessions: self-possession. Self-possession entails the ability to self-restraint, self-compulsion, and self-direction, and whomever has these qualities may obtain whatever other possession he desires if he lives long enough.” –William Hanna Thompson, Brain and Personality (William Hanna Thompson, 1906).

Psychologists have long been interested in determining which human qualities are linked to beneficial life outcomes. In their quest, they’ve turned over hundreds of pebbles, but they’ve only discovered two elements that consistently contribute to increased pleasure, health, and success: willpower and intellect.

Unfortunately, scientists have yet to uncover methods to increase a person’s intellect over time; intelligence is mostly a hereditary and intrinsic ability.

As a result, willpower is the sole instrument we have control over when it comes to improving our lives.

What a tremendous instrument it is, however.

You’ve surely heard of the famous marshmallow experiment, in which four-year-old children were locked in a room with a marshmallow in front of them. The kids were given the option of eating the marshmallow immediately away or waiting 15 minutes for another marshmallow. The youngsters who had the most self-control, those who could wait for their white gelatinous booty to double, grew up to be fitter adults with higher test scores and grades, as well as stronger relationships.

Only one personality attribute, willpower, was subsequently linked to a group of children’s college GPA in another research that looked at 36 distinct personality qualities. In fact, there was a larger link between willpower and college GPA than there was between future grades and IQ or SAT scores.


Other research has shown that persons who have better self-control are more emotionally stable and have less problems with anger, anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol misuse. They are also more likely to be popular employers, have more friends, and be in a secure marriage with less chances of divorce. All of these advantages stay true even when variables such as class, race, and intellect are taken into account. When siblings who were reared in the same family were investigated, the same results were discovered. The siblings who had greater self-control did better in life than their brothers and sisters who lacked it.

“The power of your will determines the quality of your existence.” Henry Van Dyke (Henry Van Dyke)

It’s simple to understand why there’s such a strong link between your amount of willpower and how far you go in life. Minimizing your mistakes and optimizing your good actions and habits is the key to all success, happiness, and fulfillment. Willpower is the energy that fuels your potential to achieve both objectives. The individual who has more willpower takes five steps ahead and one step back, while the one who has less willpower takes two steps forward and one step back. As a result, it’s not an exaggeration to say that willpower is the single most important factor in deciding whether you’ll be superhuman or ordinary, king or slave, man or mouse.

Understanding the Concept of Willpower

“A more accurate description of the Will is ‘the Power Of Self-direction.’”

“The Will may now be [defined] as the ability to select what a man does.”


-From Frank Hadding Chaddock’s 1919 novel The Power of Will

So, the power of your willpower is quite crucial. But, to return to the original point, what is willpower in the first place?

It is essentially a mental energy that enables you to guide your activities into four different categories:

  • Thoughts. Don’t even consider a white bear! Didn’t you think of a white bear just now? Willpower allows you to concentrate on what you want to think about by preventing unwanted and bothersome ideas from entering your mind.
  • Emotions. It’s impossible to make oneself happy or miserable. You may, however, decide to take steps to modify how you’re feeling—”I’m down.” I’m going for a run—it usually makes me feel better.” It requires effort to put up a front and simulate a feeling, such as being the rock for someone else while you’re coming apart yourself.
  • Impulses. “I want to eat that slice of cake,” for example, is an impulse. “I want to smack that man in the face.” “Instead of working, I’d want to read my email.” While there are strategies to reduce the quantity of such impulses, you don’t have direct control over whether or not they occur. Willpower, on the other hand, aids in controlling how you respond to the urge. Will you ignore it or succumb to it?
  • Controlling performance. This relates to your ability to focus and concentrate on a task, how long you can stick with anything before giving up, how much effort you put in at various stages of an exercise or activity, how effectively you manage your time, and so on.

While willpower governs all of these diverse types of prospective and actual behaviors, it is the same supply of willpower that deals with them all—you don’t have a separate supply of willpower for emotions and another for performance control.


Willpower is the thing that kicks in and attempts to keep you on track anytime you have a want to do something that goes against your long-term objectives and basic beliefs. The more your willpower, the more likely you are to make a choice that is in keeping with your objectives. Willpower is the ability to pick your course and stick to it despite difficulties, opposition, and weakness.

While our unconscious thoughts do drive us to make judgments and act in ways we aren’t always aware of and that aren’t always reasonable, the unconscious has a stronger influence over our short-term decisions. Willpower functions as an executive force that searches for patterns and identifies the link between our current behavior and our long-term objectives, then makes course adjustments to keep us on track. In other words, despite the fact that the ship is being pushed about by the wind and waves, the captain reads his compass and adjusts the rudder to keep us on track.

I think about willpower in terms of the ancient metaphor of the devil and angel sitting on each of your shoulders, but without the religious connotations. Imagine Teddy Roosevelt on one side and Al Bundy on the other, instead of an angel. “Bully!” says TR to you. While Al is whispering in your ear to grab a drink and settle in front of the television, read that textbook! Who will emerge victorious? That relies on TR’s relative power to Al at any particular time. What factors influence that strength? “Ego depletion” is a phenomena.

That’s what we’ll talk about next week in the second half of this three-part series, when we talk about our limited amount of willpower. Then we’ll wrap things off with an essay on how to bolster, and even more significantly, save your willpower for the most crucial aspects of your life.

Make sure you listen to Kelly McGonigal’s episode on willpower: 


The Force of Greatness Series: Willpower What Happens When Your Willpower Is Depleted? 20 Ways to Conserve Your Willpower and How to Strengthen It

The Force of Greatness Series: Willpower What Happens When Your Willpower Is Depleted? 20 Ways to Conserve Your Willpower and How to Strengthen It


Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney’s book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength