By Leo Gura - February 26, 2014 | 12 Comments

The top scientifically proven ways of building up your willpower.

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Hey, this is Leo from Actualized.org, and in this video I’m going to cover how to build willpower.

I’m back. We’re going to talk about willpower, how to build it, how to develop it, what it really is and why it’s important to your life. What is willpower and why is it important to your life? Let’s get into this. This is a fascinating topic.

Control Your Impulses

What willpower is is really your ability to control your own impulses, impulse control. How easy is it for you to get yourself out of bed in the morning, when you want to stay in all comfy and snuggy? How easy is it for you to get your ass off the couch and to the gym, when your favourite TV show comes on?

How easy is it for you to say no to that donut or that pizza that shows up at the office? How easy is it for you to get you ass into gear and start that project that you’ve been dreaming of starting, but you know you should start and for some reason have been procrastinating on it? Like writing that novel, or starting that business, or composing that song, or directing that movie, or whatever other activity you want to be doing out there?

Willpower is necessary to do all of these things. Willpower really is your prefrontal cortex muscle. It’s your prefrontal cortex and its ability to exert impulse control on other parts of your brain. This is actually a physical phenomenon and willpower is something that can be developed.

If you have low willpower right now, or if you feel like you do, then don’t get discouraged, because I’m going to give you some tips right now, in this video, for how to start building up your willpower.

I’m also going to tell you some stuff that is robbing you of your willpower, so that you can eliminate those activities that are really draining and atrophying your willpower muscle. Why is willpower important? Why do we talk about this?

Willpower is critical to the success you get in your life. It’s especially critical if you’re on board with the kind of mission I have, for you and for myself, which is to be living an extraordinary kind of life, to be challenging ourselves, to be living a life of creative contribution.

When we’re out there expressing ourselves, when we’re creating amazing careers and businesses and we’re starting these dream projects, and we’re fulfilling them and we’re living on our edge — to do that takes willpower.

What Is It Good For?

That will power helps us overcome the fears that naturally come up when we are out of our comfort zone. Willpower is important to advance your career. Willpower is important to stay on top of your life purpose and to pursue your life purpose in the beginning. Willpower is important to working out problems in relationships and to make sure you’re being conscious and self-aware in a relationship, you’re not just being triggered, and you’re not being a stimulus-response animal in a relationship, and just turning it to shit basically.

Willpower is essential to your happiness. One way to define happiness is to live with integrity to your values. To do that means to be disciplined enough to follow through on those activities you know are good for you, but are oh so easy to fall through on.

Let’s get into some of this stuff. Willpower is, I said it was like a muscle, and it literally is. To build willpower, the process of building willpower, is no different than going to the gym and pumping your biceps, or pumping your quads or whatever muscle it is you’re working on on your physical body.

Your physical body actually atrophies from disuse. The same thing happens with your brain. Physically, and this has now been proven by neuroscience — some of the cutting edge neuroscience has been done over the last twenty years — where they really done a lot of MRI scans, FMRI scans, CAT scans and other things, where they’re really using these cool, new technologies to look at what’s going on inside your brain.

They’re analyzing and doing studies on people who are meditating, they’re doing studies on people who are doing exercise, people who are watching television, and they’re comparing the brain activity of all these people. They’re looking at what’s going on there. What they’re seeing is that the brain, the prefrontal cortex specifically, can be built up by using it.

Flex Your Brain Muscle

Every time you actually use your prefrontal cortex by resisting some sort of urge, some sort of lower urge, what that’s doing is building up your discipline. It’s building up your willpower reserve.

That means that any time you get some sort of inclination to do something, if you can resist that will build up your willpower just a little bit. The next time you resist a little bit more, that builds up your willpower a little bit more.

The more you do that, that ratchets up your willpower and it builds it up, just like it would a muscle. There’s really no escaping having strong willpower and exercising willpower. The two are the same thing. If you’re exercising your willpower all the time, and you’re finding those opportunities through the day, then you’re going to have strong willpower.

It’s going to take weeks, maybe months, maybe a year or more, to get you to the kind of high level willpower that you want, but as long as you’re taking those steps, just like you would with pumping your biceps, you’re going to get there.

On the other hand, if you’re not taking those opportunities, and if you’re falling off and you’re really falling through on that, and you’re not living up to your highest self — the highest self you know you need to be — then you’re losing willpower with each one of those.

It’s a matter of are you building yourself up or are you building yourself down, atrophying. That’s the process. Let me tell you now some of the ways you can build willpower. These are some of the scientifically proven, most effective ways of building willpower.


Number one is meditation. Meditation is thousands of years old and it’s a really popular technique, and it’s remained popular for so long, for millennia, because it is so effective at building willpower and the effect of that spills over into all areas of life. That’s why meditation is so powerful.

Meditation not only feels good in the moment when you’re doing it, but it is good at improving performance in your career, performance in relationships, performance in the gym – everywhere. Because it builds up that muscle. It really is like the gym for the brain, that’s basically what I see meditation as being.

It is the number one proven way of building up willpower. It literally resculpts your prefrontal cortex, physically, when you meditate. After a while, that puts you into a whole other league of impulse control versus normal people. Go ahead and start meditating if you’re not already. Start building up a practice of doing that every day, for twenty minutes, that’s what I recommend. I have other videos that tell you exactly how to do meditation, so you might want to check them out.

Work Out

Other things? Exercise is a really good way to build willpower, because it takes discipline to do that. It takes an exercise of willpower muscle just to get yourself into the gym. Just to do the workout routine. Just to lift that extra five pounds of weight. Just to run for an extra ten minutes on the treadmill. That takes discipline to do, and exercise has a synergistic effect with the discipline it takes to go to the gym, then you’re doing the exercises — all that just synergises and builds up your willpower muscle.


Another one is breathing. Seems a little bit silly, we all breathe. Doing deep breathing, slow, meditative type of breathing is actually a really good way to calm yourself down and to start to actually get in touch with a higher sense of awareness in you. Most of the time, throughout your day, you’re running through your day on autopilot.

You’re not aware of your breathing, you’re not aware of what your body’s doing. You’re not even aware of what your mind is thinking most of the time. When you start to breathe, breathe consciously, just like breathe in for four seconds deeply, then hold it, and then breathe out for six seconds.

When you do that — I just did it right now and all of a sudden my thought pattern has already slowed down, my voice is slower, I’m talking slower. I feel more grounded. When I’m in that kind of state I have more willpower. I’m able to resist impulses much more easily.

You can practice that really well with meditation. You can couple breathing with meditation, or you can just do separate breathing exercises. Make sure you’re breathing in, and then your exhale is longer than your inhale. You inhale is maybe four seconds, and your exhale is six or eight seconds. That will calm you down, relax you and get you really in touch with your whole body and your thoughts.

Take Right Action

The next way to build willpower is just little things. I would say taking right action. Any time you take right action, and this just means doing the things you know you need to be doing, you know are healthy and good for you, when you do those things that is building up our willpower.

These are just basic disciplines. For example, maybe waking up on time, not hitting that snooze button. How about eating right? Resisting that desert, resisting that junk food, that candy bar. Resisting that cheeseburger, if it’s not on your diet.

How about working hard? Going in and putting in a really solid day’s worth of work at your job or in your business. Being on top of that, staying on top of that stuff. Making sure that if you do have a meditation practice, that you’re staying on top of that meditation practice every day, and you’re not being waffly about it, and you’re not skipping one day here and one day there.

Same thing with your gym routine. Making sure you’re staying on top of that very consistently. When you are doing all those things and you are executing on them, just do that for a week. Take right action for a whole week and just see how you feel compared to when you don’t.

You’re going to feel so much more alive, you’re going to feel so much more powerful. You’re going to feel like you have more control over your life, and it’s going to be a lot easier to start doing the things that are a little bit outside your comfort zone.

That’s where your willpower is necessary. Now you’ve got those reserves, you can use them to start that dream project or start that new diet, or crank it up even harder at the gym or whatever it is you really want to put in place into your life. I find that taking right action is the general rule of thumb that is important to building willpower.

The Bad Stuff

Finally, what I’m going to talk about is ways to destroy willpower. I’ve given you a lot of good ideas for how to build it up. Now we’re going to talk about what is robbing you of it. This is a pretty obvious list, but I’m sure you’re doing some of the stuff on this list.

Even I’m doing some of the stuff on this list, so as I’m talking to you about it, I’m becoming more aware, and I’m making more of a commitment to get this stuff out of my life.

Number one, television. Make sure you’re not watching television. This is robbing you, this is killing your willpower. It’s putting you into low-consciousness, zombie mode. Turn off the television — in fact, disconnect it, disconnect your cable. I don’t even own cable, I haven’t owned cable for years.

It’s been one of the best changes I’ve made in my life. Such a simple little change, but it’s amazing. I have so much more energy. I’m so much happier, so much more fulfilled. I’m doing so much more stuff, I’m so much more productive because I’m not watching television.

Internet — really, no different than TV. If you’re a habitual internet browser, if you’re always watching YouTube videos non-stop, if you’re always checking the news, checking your email, you’re chatting with your friends — cut that shit out, it’s destroying your willpower. It’s turning you into a low-consciousness zombie.

Snacking, overeating, any way you’re using food as a crutch, as an emotional crutch, as a psychological dependency — cut that out, it’s destroying your willpower. It’s making you feel guilty. You’re not taking right action there, you know that’s not healthy for you.

Sleeping in — if you’re not waking up on time, I know that’s actually been a problem lately for me, because I have a very odd sleep schedule. I live in Vegas, so I go to bed very late, and I tend to wake up late as a result. That’s screwing with my work schedule a little bit. That’s something I have to work on, sleeping in less.

Drinking, alcohol, drugs, smoking, any kind of chemical substance abuse you’re partaking in — cut that out, that is destroying your willpower. It’s also destroying your body, destroying the performance you could have in your life. It’s really a waste of your life, it’s a shame you’re doing that stuff. Cut that shit out.

Video games — I used to partake in that a lot. I still do a little bit, but not nearly to the point where I did before. Cut that stuff out, wean yourself off of video games — huge time sink, huge willpower drain. Get yourself off that stuff.

Porn — if you’re addicted to porn, if you watch a lot of porn, unhook yourself from that stuff. That stuff is also hurting your willpower and it’s destroying your energy, destroying your performance.

In With The Good, Out With The Bad

That’s basically it. Those are the ways you’re destroying your willpower. If you cut some of those out and you put in some of those good methods then you’re going to start to see that you willpower builds up and up and up and up, the more you keep doing that.

For you, as an action item right now, because I don’t want you to just watch this video, I want you to actually take some action. Number one question to ask yourself is: what could you be doing to build up your willpower? What’s the one thing for you that you know is going to be right?

Is it meditation? Is it exercise? Is it breathing? Is it waking up on time? Decide what it is, just one thing. Don’t try to fix everything at once. One thing. Then the next thing is, what is the one thing right now you’re doing that’s destroying your willpower?

Jot that down. Write that down. Make it very clear in your mind. Is it too much TV? Too much internet? Too much sleeping in? Too much drinking? Too many video games? Too much porn? Decide on that one thing, and decide you’re going to cut it out.

You’re going to put one thing into place, and you’re going to take one thing out of place. Then you’re going to start to watch what happens to your willpower. If you stay consistent on that, and you take right action, you’re going to notice a big shift.

Wrap Up

That’s it, that’s what I wanted to tell you on willpower. I am signing off. Go ahead, post your comments. Please like this and share this so this message spreads around if you like it. Of course, I’m going to send you to Actualized.org, where I have a free newsletter with exclusive updates, exclusive content — an exclusive nineteen part video series, a chance to get two hours of free coaching with me, which I give away every month.

The reason that you really want to sign up, and the reason you want to follow me is because the information I’m sharing with you I have distilled down from years worth of research. I continue to do more and more every day, and I’m bringing you the best to help you master your psychology.

I want you to create an amazing life for yourself. I really want you to create a life of purpose, something where you’re going out there and you’re contributing something awesome and you’re feeling amazing about it.

You have an amazing relationship. You have amazing success in your life. You have your money situation handled. You have your health situation handled. I want that for you. I know you want that for you. I know how hard it is to get that, and how hard it is to stay on track with that.

Actualized.org, this is a rare opportunity for you to follow along, to help you stay on course. That’s what we’re here to do, to give you the emotional support — and of course, some techniques and some understanding — but really the emotional support to stay on course with your dreams. If you’re into that, check us out.

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Amy says:

Thank you for your insights – despite being a lot older than you, I am learning so very much!

tina says:

Thankyou Leo these videos are helping me so much in my daily life. keep up the good work, i’m listening to one every day and practicing these skills are life changing.
I did sign up but am having a problem with the password is there a way i can change this?

Leo Gura says:

Try using a different web browser or non-mobile/non-tablet device.

Katherine says:

Toss my TV years ago. Reclaimed my mind! Starting meditating, yoga and eating whole foods and I’ve gained strength. This trickled into my spiritual life and wonderful things have happened in that area too.

Janmejay says:

This is a great video. I have no words to express my thanks to you for your deep insights, knowledge, and a first hand experience in the area of self-help.

This video has some of the amazing concepts you have outlined. However, what I have difficulty in following is – why watching TV, internet, porn would drop /drain will power? I was not able to figure out the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of it? It would be great if you could please explain it?


Hengame says:

Hi Leo the most i like ur video is ur calm voice wich is really undrestandable for me as not english native speaker thank u for ur help and advice

Emma says:

Thank you for this advice! Things we may already know, but hearing them stated by a positive and strong person brings that knowledge and inspiration out into the open and makes more usable.

Thanks again,


Oscar says:

Thank you
Extremelly helpful to me

Abby says:

What are the sources you took to find out this information?

Ally says:

Do you have any evidence that television decreases willpower? You seem to just be saying its a bad habit and a waste of time….but you say no connection or reasoning to willpower

Max Raoy Gron says:

The beliefs of Leo: shamanic breathing, Hindu yoga, Zen Buddhism, making up a devil in Zen (yes, he made it up), pantheism, metaphysical monism, realism, pessimism, liberalism, libertarianism, epistemology (specifically on what a belief is, that a belief is a thought regarded as true or false), ultrascepticism, that life is magical, paradox (contradictions), logic (especially certain kinds of logic, like induction, because I only listen to induction), infinity, that himself is God with the belief that God is everything and that even I’m God and this computer is God, with the belief that there are conditions, like morals, to become God.

My beliefs: wonderism, that, as it was anciently in China, there’s a curiosity of the wonderful, that life is wonderful and has to be, that superstition and astrology are true, just like in China amongst the foreigners of the Sabaeans, Syrians and Hindus, that’s the only truth, as I found out, it’s self-evident, life is good, and this is a belief for my 40th birthday, today 24th of March, it’s so, it’s a fact because it can only be understood from philosophical Taoism. Hence my willpower will go peachy, I don’t know, the path I’m following might lead to a better life, it’s curious, life’s mysterious as is the requirement of my philosophy. I’m a fool if I cling to belief in mechanism, I don’t care about the “rules” of reality, I have limitless power, as I learned how to bend reality, I listened to a The Doors song over unfortunate problems, and chose to break on through to the other side. As for Jim Morrison, his reality arranged to fit his version of the truth, and the late sixties revolving around Jim Morrison, it’s too much, in all wonderfulness life is moderate, it’s not too brutal, plain, evil, good, nice, horrible, meaningful, nihilistic, atheistic, religious, idiotic, or crazy or silly, it’s just ancient history from history of China, being wonderful, and it’s not all a disaster, or all magical, it’s true because it can’t be explained, yet it’s simple (and complicated), it’s not as complicated as you think.

Maxiwrong says:

I’m not happy, my beliefs get disgusting assumptions about them like they’re evil, it happens with every differing belief I have unless it was pessimistic, with any kind of traditionalism, it gets a bad reaction, assuming that most people are modern types of people, I think they are, forgetting about traditional values and as for traditionalism of any sort I ought to stop it, I’m not free to break even a 20-year-old’s own personal rules and suddenly the libertarian has the balls to smoke anywhere at any time they want? It’s false, you have no freedom, you have responsibility and there are rules, as for the happiness thing I need a new ideology, one that works and doesn’t get a weird reaction, as for being Australian, who decides what’s Australian and what’s not? If I was a patriot I’m a bloody true blue Aussie, nobody’s buying into my beliefs, beliefs are false except pessimistic thought, unless I found a true belief, it doesn’t work, and even pessimism which doesn’t work in the way you think it works, it “works” by accepting people and being calm when they’re angry with you.

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