Willpower is Basis of Success

Have you ever wondered if willpower actually plays a role in a person’s ability to obtain success? Or, have you ever asked yourself, “How does willpower affect your success?”  If so, this post is for you.  We’re going to connect the dots for you on the importance of willpower as key element of success.

But, before we do, we’re going indulge you in a little English lesson first. ‘WILL’ means the intent, desire or wish to have something happen. Willpower is, therefore, the motivation to exercise ‘will.’

Willpower is the inner strength that enables you to not only make decisions but also to carry them out. People with strong willpower assert their decisions in the face of strong opposition. Whereas people with weak willpower capitulate to fate.

Where there is willpower, there is resolution, assertiveness, persistence, decisiveness, and firmness. We use willpower every day: to resist temptations, overcome procrastination and ultimately to achieve our goals.  In short, success can not be had without willpower.

“Willpower is what separates us from animals. It is the capacity to restrain our impulses, resist temptation – do what’s right and good for us in the long run, not what we want to do right now.” – Roy Baumeister

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Willpower and Success

Most people don’t know this, but there is a very thin line between success and failure, and that line is essentially willpower.

Willpower gives us the strength to overcome the negative traits and impulses such as inaction, laziness, procrastination, and temptations. It is the ability to find the energy, motivation, and stamina to keep going even when you are tired and anxious, and part of you is looking for an escape.

A recent study revealed that as long as we are awake every two minutes, we are faced with a situation that requires us to make decisions. By the end of the day, we have spent three to four hours exercising willpower: resisting the urge to eat the last cookie, order another Martini, play candy crush, log on to the internet (for the nth time ), have an affair, buy another pair of shoes… you get my drift.

Fun fact: people high in willpower get better grades in school and college, they commit fewer crimes, and they stay married longer. They live longer, have fewer strokes, lower blood pressure and lower incidences of Alzheimer’s disease.

In short, willpower is a basis of success. Increase your willpower, and you’ll increase the likelihood of success where that willpower is being channeled.


So, How Do We Fare in This Battle of Willpower?

Not so well, I am afraid. According to research by Florida State University, we succumb to one in every six desires despite our attempt to resist. As a result, we take those extra naps, we overspend, surf the internet more hours than we care to admit, watch television etc.

In the ‘American Psychological Association’s’ annual survey, people regularly indicate that a lack of willpower is the number one barrier to following up on changes that would improve their lives. In 2011, 27%  of the respondents of the ‘Stress in America’ survey revealed that lack of willpower was the greatest obstacle to change.

With more willpower, everyone would exercise regularly, avoid alcohol and drugs, eat right, save money for retirement and achieve all types of goals.

On the flipside, we commit more errors and increase our chances of facing tragedies because we lack willpower. We know what is good for us; what will help us progress, but we lack the will power to pursue the appropriate course of action. We know what is detrimental to us; what we should stop doing, but we lack the willpower to eliminate the harmful behavior.

As a result, and as you’d expect, negative outcomes ensue.

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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What Role Does Willpower Play in Achieving Your Goals?

Willpower is not a cheap resource. Exerting self-control is one of the brains most energy-expensive tasks, sapping more blood sugar than memory or learning a language.

In short, it plays a BIG role.  In fact, the biggest role.

Willpower and Delaying Gratification

Willpower has the essential ability to help us delay gratification. We resist the splurging at the mall so that we can save for a comfortable retirement, we resist the urge to sleep so that we can complete a project, and we resist the urge to lash out in anger for an improved relationship with a spouse.


According to scientists, we have one part of the brain that is impulsive and emotional, while the other part is reflective. People with low will power are susceptible to emotional responses and hardly think of the long-term implications.

On the other hand, people with strong willpower have greater ability to plan, handle stress, respond to reason, concentrate without becoming distracted and exhibit self-control in frustrating situations.  In short, people with strong willpower have all the ingredients necessary for success.

We cannot succeed without resisting short-term temptations to meet long-term goals.

Willpower and The Formation of Healthy Behaviors.

Every day we make decisions to avoid impulses in the quest for a healthier, happier and more fulfilled life. Whether it is dragging ourselves to the gym, forgoing another round of cocktails, or resisting the temptation to skip the Monday morning meeting; our will power is tested on a constant basis.

It is clear that willpower is necessary for the formation of healthy habits and adoption of healthy lifestyle choices. People with strong will power will resist the allure of using tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs. Indeed, it has been found that developing strong willpower as children may prevent substance abuse problems in teenage and adulthood.

Success is an accumulation of daily healthy practices.

Willpower and Ability to Handle Failures

Great success depends on great risk, and failure is simply a common ground.

Every journey to success is accompanied by varying degrees of uncertainty. Every decision, including the decision to do nothing, carries the element of risk, and failure is always an option.

Every successful individual is someone who has failed before. The difference between many of us and the successful people around us, is that while they used their failures as stepping stones to later success, many of us view failure as fatalistic. We are so focused on avoiding failure that we do not aim for success, settling instead for a life of mediocrity.

It is reported that Thomas Edison had 1,000 tries before he developed the light bulb. A reporter asked him, “How did it feel to fail 1000 times? “Thomas replied, “I did not fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps”. What an incredible attitude! What would have happened if Edison had given up on the second attempt? Or 999th attempt? How many times did you fail before you gave up?

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Failure is not defeat. Failure is proof that you are pushing yourself to your limits.

You will never succeed if you do not have the will power to handle your failures. Willpower helps to see failure in proper perspective. When we fail we learn, we grow and mature. We achieve new understandings and perspectives on business, relationships, life and love.

Failure is part of the genetic makeup of life. It is part of the grand design of things here on earth.

Without willpower, you play the victim in failure, allow self-degrading thoughts take hold and let anger control you.

With will power you take a deep breath and get back in the game, knowing that you are learning valuable lessons along the way, having great new experiences and living life to the fullest.

Willpower helps us win our internal battles. It helps us to say yes to things that lead us closer to our goals. It gives us the ability to do what we need to even when we don’t feel like it.

Willpower is the great force that makes the impossible possible.

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” – Vince Lombardi

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Final Thoughts on Willpower and Success 

There is a clear connection between success and willpower.  And how much willpower each of us has is entirely up to us.

We can focus on improving our willpower, or we can flow with fate.

Hopefully after reading this article you will choose the former.

Why? Because it is only through willpower that your successes will come and your achievements made great.

Till next time,


PS – If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll also enjoy this article on the link between Self-Control and Success.


By: Christopher H.
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Published Date: Thu, 12 Aug 2021 10:35:00 +0000

Christopher H.
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