The case for willpower being a key weapon in an individual’s arsenal is an open and shut one. Throughout the ages, many traits have been pointed out that are crucial to a person’s success. Discipline, determination, single minded focus, perseverance, agility – all these are perceived to be the cornerstone for achieving Life goals. Yet, this innocuous and seemingly easy word is key to everything that is achievable. It has been proven time and again that when faced with insurmountable odds, it is always this trait and no other, that proves a person’s mettle and helps the individual to scale the peaks of success.

The brilliance of Stephen Hawking comes readily to mind, as a classic example of what willpower can achieve. Everyone knows how this immensely gifted scientist overcame his apparent fate of being a quadriplegic to becoming the most luminous academician – physicist of our times. The movie which chronicles his life story also corroborates this. It didn’t matter to Hawking that he was diagnosed with an unusual and paralysing disease. What mattered to him was his single-minded obsession of unravelling the mysteries of the cosmos which led to his celebrated contributions in the field of physics and cosmology.

It then becomes increasingly obvious that the key to Hawking’s success lay in his indomitable willpower to overcome his physical impairments and never give up sight of his ambition. It is this trait that was instrumental in shaping his life and career and propelling him to the rarefied realms of scientific theories of black holes and quantum physics.

The strength that willpower brings to an individual is something which I have personally experienced as well in many areas of my life.

A simple example of physical exertion comes to mind. Although I have been of fairly sound physical shape for most of my adult life, I have taken up jogging only in the last few years. I found that initially I could jog no more than one or two kms at a time. But over a period of time, I resolved to increase my jogging distance and kept at it. To my surprise (though why should it surprise is the question) I have now reached a minimum of 5-6 kms that I can complete at a stretch and my aim is to better this distance as well. Although this appears to be an insignificant distance when compared to some of my friends who run distances of 10- 25 km and more, it becomes a personal achievement to be able to surpass what I thought I couldn’t do. And I can do this only because I keep telling myself not to give up. Only a couple of kms to go. I can do it. I must not stop now.

That is willpower in its most elementary and beautiful form.

It is the fuel that helps you grow beyond your self-inflicted boundaries. Cultivating willpower is essential for anyone wanting to achieve success – whether it is acing an entrance exam, climbing the highest peak or subduing one’s own self-destructive passions.

To attain ever increasing amounts of this most precious personal trait, I recommend the following game plan, based on my struggles to attain more of this greatly beneficial characteristic. This is by no means the ultimate plan, just one that has worked for me and continues to do so :

  • Start small, then keep building – it is always a daunting task to take on the entire objective or goal in one fell sweep. So start small – one step at a time and gradually build up your reserves of strength, distance , emotions whatever it is you are aiming for. This will help you to overcome the initial starting issue as the goal will also seem achievable. Once you have achieved the first milestone, move it a little more so that your next one is then ready.
  • Engage in a physical activity – this is essential because it is an example where you can quantify the effort and the outcome. It also gives you the biggest kick in achieving something which you thought you could not do – and in the process, push your boundaries. It could be anything – from a walk in the park, to practising yoga at home or pumping iron. A physical activity that you can perform and then look to scaling that up gradually, gives you first hand evidence of the confidence that you can do it. To top it off, the afterglow of successfully completing your goal is a great and fulfilling feeling.
  • Periodic fasting – this habit enables one to train the mind not to give in to hunger pangs. It helps in keeping a reign on your daily impulses and curbing the most fundamental of all desires. This in turn helps build willpower. Again, you need have a highly ambitious plan to start with. Start with maybe a morning session of abstinence followed by a day’s fasting and gradually move your way up. If you can suspend your primal desire to fill your stomach for predetermined intervals of time, it will aid you in your quest to building an iron wall of willpower.
  • Just do it – The classic Nike tagline has an inherent simplicity and focus that I love. Motivation is overrated. When you feel yourself not upto it and the desire to throw in the towel is great, you need to just go ahead and do it. Don’t rationalise and don’t procrastinate. Force yourself to do whatever it is you have promised yourself. That is the best route to build your willpower.

To summarise, there are a number of qualities that are essential on the road to success. All of them are important to enable us to get there. It is also important to cultivate those habits and traits that are good for us and help us become stronger individuals. But a person who has enormous reserves of willpower will always reach his or her goals, come what may. She will not be deterred by the seemingly insurmountable obstacles on the way. Armed with willpower, an individual can smash all records and scale the highest peaks. Or better still, he will, in a steady march towards fulfilment, reach the apogee of all human endeavour – conquering one’s own impulses of the Mind.