This Truth About Willpower Can Help Make You Mentally Stronger

Believing you have everything you need is the first step to accomplishing your goals.

learn more about Nina Zipkin

By Nina Zipkin


We've all had those days when your to-do list has taken on a life of its own and you think if you spend even a few more minutes at your desk, your head is going to explode. How do you find the wherewithal to keep going? But if you think willpower is something that can be depleted, that's actually a self-fulfilling prophecy, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign polled more than 1,100 Americans and 1,600 Europeans about how they thought about willpower. The participants were asked to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements such as, "After a strenuous mental activity, your energy is depleted, and you must rest to get it refueled again."

Related: 6 Strategies to Maintain Your Willpower

As it turns out, the study found that the polled Americans said they believed they had less stamina for strenuous mental activity than the European participants did. The Americans were more likely to say that they required time to rest and recover after performing mentally stressful tasks, while the Europeans said they felt more able to begin the next activity immediately.

"When we view our willpower as limited, it's similar to a muscle that gets tired and needs rest. If we believe it is a finite resource, we act that way, feeling exhausted and needing breaks between demanding mental tasks, while people who view their willpower as a limitless resource get energized instead," explained lead study author Professor Christopher Napolitano.

Read more: How Your Daily Discipline Drives Success

Napolitano noted that simply changing your mindset is the key to building up a reserve of willpower. If you believe that you have it, you will. "Changing your beliefs about the nature of your self-control can have positive effects on development, leading to healthier behaviors and perceptions of others," he said.

Would you give this strategy a try? What do you to try to stretch yourself mentally? Let us know in the comments.

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

The Dark Side of Pay Transparency — And What to Do If You Find Out You're Being Underpaid
Thinking of a Career Change? Here Are 4 Steps You Can Take to Get There.
A Founder Who Bootstrapped Her Jewelry Business With Just $1,000 Now Sees 7-Figure Revenue Because She Knew Something About Her Customers Nobody Else Did
Everything You Need to Know About Franchise Law

What Is a Brand Personality? Here's How to Develop One.

Connect with your audience on a deeper level by giving and cultivating your brand a personality. Read here how to do so.

Starting a Business

How To Sell on Etsy in 2023: A Comprehensive Guide

Want to start selling your handmade goods online? This article outlines how to start and grow your business using Etsy.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.

Starting a Business

How to Craft the Best Benefits Package for a Global Workforce

Attract top talent from across the globe with a benefits package that speaks to anyone, anywhere.

Business News

'Crying Northwestern Kid' Turned His Viral Fan Moment Into a Successful Harvard Admissions Essay. He Says the Experience Taught Him About Empathy.

Six years ago, Phillips was watching No. 8 Northwestern take on No. 1 Gonzaga during March Madness when he became a meme.