By: Jen Gerasimas
June 21, 2021
One had holding a broccoli crown. Another hand holding a donut with pink icing and sprinkles


Lack of self-control or willpower is a top reason people struggle to start or maintain healthy habits. Though we only have a finite amount of self-control, there are ways to strengthen it and gain more so you are successful with a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Five methods to increase willpower are admit & find the trigger, take a pause, know your greater purpose, create a successful environment, and get support.

5 Proven Ways to Increase Self-Control

In what situations do you find it hardest to control or begin a healthy behavior?

Is it... Eating sweets at night? Staying up too late? Hitting the snooze so you don’t get a workout in? Weekend binge eating? Losing your cool with your kids?

Pretty much everyone has some area where they lack self-control. In a recent Coaches Chat we discussed what experts said about self-control, or willpower, and shared areas we, even as wellness professionals, struggle with self-control. Be sure to check out Episode 6 & Episode 7

The Quick Dirty on Self-Control

Lack of willpower is one of the top reasons people say they can’t reach their goals. We did a survey of our audience last year and lack of self-control was the second biggest struggle people have with creating healthy habits. Lack of time was number one. 

Self-control is foundational to a thriving well-being. It leads to flourishing and freedom. So when you lose self-control, you are really losing your freedom. Indulging in a comfort meal at the end of a stressful day may feel like your way to control an upended day, but in actuality, you don’t have the control you think you have. In fact, many people experience regret following those poor decisions.

There are many reasons we lose control. One of them is that we only have a finite amount of self-control. Depending on how much control we use up in the day or during the week, it may tap out by Thursday evening and lead to poor choices and ruin hard work toward your wellness goals. If you want to read a great book on this topic, check out The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonial, PhD.

5 Ways to Increase Your Self-Control

The good news is that you can increase your self-control. Just like a bicep or quadricep can be strengthened in different ways such as body weight, resistance bands, cardio, and weight lifting, you can strengthen the willpower muscle, too. The more you use your self-control with these effective exercises, the more you gain.

One: Admit & find the trigger.

Confessing that problem brings it forward and allows you to take ownership of it. This gives you more power than the bad habit. Once you know the trigger, you can take action to remove that trigger or turn it into a trigger for a healthy habit instead. Recognition is the first step to change. When you do this enough, you will feel your mindset and habits shift in the right direction.

Two: Take a pause.

Many times we make decisions in a rush. We want immediate gratification and not have to think about what is best for us in the future. So when you find yourself struggling to do the better thing, pause for a moment. Relax yourself by slowing your breathing, walking away, or getting outside. Rest allows a recharge. That is why a good night’s sleep makes you a different person in the morning. 

Three: Know your greater purpose.

Look for a deeper reason “why” you need to make the change. Usually, there are strong underlying reasons that drive our desires. If you just focus on the desire of the moment, your self-control will be fleeting. But when the reason is compelling, your self-control increases tremendously. Is it for your family, for your faith, to avoid a medical issue? Take the time to look at your goals and find that deeper reason “why.”  Let that give you the self-control you need to make a lifestyle change. 

Four: Create a successful environment. 

Once you have discovered your triggers in point number one, you can develop a plan for success. Tackling the temptation is best done by creating an environment to be successful. Your successful environment may include not having sweets in the house, moving your alarm to another part of your room, or setting a control on your phone. Find ways to give your self-control a fighting chance. 

Five: Get support.

There is no substitute for community support when you struggle with something. Having the support of a friend, family member, group, or coach can empower you in great ways. Our health is too important to not get the support we need for long-term success. Find that right community or person you can confide in, to encourage you, be honest with you, give you guidance, and keep you accountable. Our healthy habit coaches are perfect for this.

As you look at these five exercises, choose an area where you lack self-control and apply them. We would love to hear your results. Share your self-control victories with us in the comments. 

To your best health and wellness,



self control, willpower

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