July 17th, 2019

How to Tap Into Your Willpower Instinct

Reading Time: 4 minutes

You’ve decided you want to eat healthier and it’s going great. You’ve taken to packing your lunch full of vegetables and lean proteins, swapped out soda for water, and have thrown out all the junk food in your house. Your willpower has never felt stronger… but then, one day, someone at the office has a birthday, and your boss brings a cake. And you really, really love cake.

These in-the-moment temptations can easily throw us off track of our goals if our willpower isn’t strong. But what if it’s not? Is there any hope for the weak-willed? In The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal unravels the mysteries of willpower and reveals the secrets of making our own willpower stronger.

Did you know Fabulous has a journey that’s all about strengthening your willpower? Try the Build an Iron Self-Discipline journey today!

You Have 3 Kinds of Willpower Instincts

You may think of willpower as simply the ability to resist temptations. According to The Willpower Instinct, however, that’s only part of the picture. Dr. McGonigal classifies willpower into three major categories:

“I Will”

The ability to do things you don’t like now in order to make your future better is called your “I will” power. Your “I will” power is the force inside you that makes sure you get vaccinated and study hard to pass your exams. You can discover your greatest “I will” challenge by asking yourself what you should stop putting off in order to improve the quality of your life.

“I Won’t”

This is the force you may traditionally think of when you think about willpower. “I won’t” power is the willpower that helps you resist the candy jar on your boss’s desk or the urge to watch TV when you should be tidying your house. Your greatest “I won’t” challenges are the habits that most hurt your health, happiness, or career.

“I Want”

This form of willpower is the capacity to remember what you truly want in life. This is your ultimate long-term goal, the beacon you use to guide your actions when those present-moment temptations crop up to distract you. Finding your greatest “I want” challenge is as simple as asking yourself what that long-term goal is, and what immediate desires are keeping you from it.

Ways to Tap Into Your Willpower Instinct

So, you know the different types of willpower, but how do you make this knowledge work for you? The Willpower Instinct offers a number of suggestions, but here are just a few to help you get started:


Willpower is sometimes called the “pause-and-plan” response, and there’s no greater way to teach yourself the power of pausing than a meditation routine. Meditation and mindfulness exercises force us to slow down, step back, and simply experience the present moment. This ability to relax and refocus can be a powerful aid when your willpower is being tested.

The Fabulous app has several guided meditations to help you develop this habit. Try the 5-Minute Breather meditation if you’re just starting out.

Do Willpower Exercises

Willpower can be trained like a muscle. But, instead of lifting weights, you can do other things that force you to exert willpower throughout the day. If, for example, you’re trying to avoid eating sweets, keep a candy jar within sight at all times, and don’t eat from it. Remember that the harder you fight temptation now, the easier it’ll be to fight temptation later.

Remember the Future

Most of the things that test our willpower are short-term gratifications. These temptations, like an office birthday cake, can overshadow our long-term goals, like eating a low-sugar diet for health reasons. That’s because it’s really hard for people to imagine the future clearly. Future You seems like a distant relative or a fictional character. But taking a minute to think of them as a real person who will suffer the consequences of your actions right now can help keep you on track.

Find Support

Having a supportive group of people around does double duty for your willpower. First, having a reliable support system will give you strength during those moments when temptations arise but your willpower is especially low. Second, being surrounded by other people with strong willpower can actually help boost your own! We’re heavily influenced by our outside surroundings. So if, for example, you want to quit smoking, see if you can quit with a friend or join a support group of other former smokers. It can make all the difference!

Fabulous Can Help You Strengthen Your Willpower Instinct

The good news is that willpower is malleable and can be strengthened. The bad news is that it requires time and effort, which can make things especially difficult when first starting out. That’s why we at Fabulous always recommend to start small and make gradual changes as your skills improve.

Are you ready to flex those willpower muscles? Download Fabulous and let us guide you, step-by-step, to a greater willpower instinct.

Ready for a challenge? Sign up for Fabulous’s Deep Work challenge and use the time to actively work on your long-term goals (while fighting temptation along the way!).