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The Science Of Willpower

WillpowerThe first of the Seven Components Of Self-Defense that I teach and write about is “Self-Defense Psychology.”

Within that component is the study of motivation and willpower.

Willpower, self-discipline and the quest for mastery are an important element in fitness, self-defense and martial arts training.  Unfortunately, like other things in life,  being disciplined and consistent with the “right things in life” is easier said than done.

Martial texts are full of references about the importance of self-control, self-discipline and “walking the path” through ongoing training and self-improvement.

Mastery is not about perfection.  It’s about a process, a journey.  The master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year.  The master is the one who is willing to try, and fail, and try again, for as long as he or she lives.” ~ George Leonard

I firmly believe (and science agrees) that the willpower developed through the process of ongoing training will “spill over” into other areas of your life and make you a more disciplined and consistent person in general.

In researching a future blog post on willpower,  I came across an interview of Dr. Kelly McGonigal, instructor of psychology at Stanford University, who wrote one of the best books I’ve read on the subject… called, “The Willpower Instinct.”

Dr. McGonigal’s research isn’t specific to self-defense or combative training but if you use your imagination, it’s not hard to draw the connection.

I found this video discussing many of the concepts from her book fascinating.  I thought I’d share it with you…

We ALL have our willpower challenges:  missed workouts, smoking, drinking too much, junk food, and the list goes on…

What are YOUR willpower challenges as they relate to your training?

About Randy LaHaie

I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.

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4 Replies

  1. Bill Rush

    Very interesting, especially the studies that suggest that both self righteousness or guilt are likely to have an opposite effect on our ability to counter temptation and negative habits. As an ex smoker, I found that a lot of this rang true. I used to ‘allow’ myself a cigarette because I’d trained hard or eaten well. It appears crazy to me now. I actually did what Prof McGonigal suggests and got friendly with my future self, without knowing it.
    In terms of training, I’ve always found the best results when I allow myself to make mistakes, get tired or, conversely, not pat myself on the back for things I can do well.For me training works best when I ‘just do it’ without thoughts for the next step. I try to select the exercises/drills that I hope will develop the skill/attribute I’m looking for and get on with it. I think that’s why boxing as a hub for self defence works so well. No matter who you are, you can get the basics and it will work on a number of levels: Power, position, focus and conditioning all on a pair of focus pads or a bag. Nothing to get yourself excited about and nothing to get too wrong if you’ve got some safe, basic tech down. It gives you room to relax and enter the moment. Anyway, thanks for the link Randy, I enjoyed watching that.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Bill. I’m glad you enjoyed the video. It’s interesting to see how much science and personal development can be tied into training.

  2. Great post. My battle is getting to the gym. I don’t naturally love working out, so the battle is even more fierce. Thanks for the push to put that will power in check.

    1. You’re welcome Alene… I’ll be writing future posts on motivation and willpower issues… I look forward to your feedback.

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