How To Keep Your Willpower Going Strong

by Noel Chelliah · 2 comments

I’m currently listening to an audiobook, Laura Vanderkam’s What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast:

… and I discovered a shocking truth on why so many of us struggle with motivation and staying on track with exercise and nutrition. Keep reading to discover how willpower, just like a muscle, becomes fatigued from overuse – and how to overcome that right away and start progressing like never before.

Willpower Does Not Last

All trainers and coaches play the role of a motivator, and we tell our clients to work hard, put in extra effort in their workouts, stay on track, stay strong, and never ever give up. In other words – we’re telling you to have the willpower to be consistent with healthy habits and to keep on persevering so that you can achieve your goals. In fact, I recently redesigned my Transformation Camp t-shirt to be this:

We’re trying to jack up your willpower because if you have sufficient willpower, then you will succeed.

So yes – willpower is absolutely essential if you want to succeed with your health and fitness goals (or any other personal/business goal too), and studies are now beginning to reveal that you can ‘run low’ on willpower as you progress through the day… that people tend to give up and make mistakes later in the day.

It is during the evening and late nights when we:

  • end up eating that candy bar or dessert
  • break our plan not to drink alcohol or smoke a cigarette
  • Skip our workouts, or cut-short our workout plan because we didn’t feel like it

Is this starting to sound familiar?

I am guilty as charged… and I’m sure many of you are too.

When wake up in the morning feeling awesome, motivated, and ON-TRACK with our habits, but then we fail later during the day.

In fact, statistics reveal that most robberies, fights, sexual abuse, and crime, in general happens at nights too, after 11PM – coincidence, or is it because it is at night, when we’re ‘running low’ on willpower, that we people are making poor decisions?

Where Did Our Willpower Go?

Willpower comes from the brain – the same brain that does:

  • Work.
  • Studying.
  • Decision-making.
  • Meetings.
  • Dealing with difficult people/colleagues.
  • Arguing over Facebook over something silly.
  • Gossiping.

In other words… a typical day for for most of us drains our reserves of ‘willpower’, leaving us vulnerable when we need it at night during that dinner, or when we hear that tub of ice-cream calling out our name from the freezer.

Understanding this is essential, so that we can acknowledge and finally understand why we mess up our diets at night – and then take steps to fix that.

So if you’re someone who’s always been failing at nights…. if you’ve been binge-eating and raiding the refrigerator when everyone’s asleep… know that it happened because your willpower to resist was probably really low at that point.

Now of course, this isn’t a passport for us to continue messing up. Now that we know what the problem is, let’s fix this.

How Do We Get More Willpower?

There are many ways to remove the stresses of life, but one of the most successful methods for me (and many successful people as mentioned in Larua Vanderkam’s book) is to:

Go to bed early, and wake up early.

No magic formula there, no magic pill. It’s as simple as that, and I discovered it about one year ago from Craig Ballantyne, author of the website

Wake up early

(why don’t they teach these kind of things at school?)

Mornings are a great time for getting things done. You are less likely to be interrupted than you are later in the day. Your supply of willpower is fresh after a good night’s sleep, and that makes it possible to turn personal priorities like exercise or creative thinking into reality.

Now that’s also another reason why you should be getting enough sleep – cos not only does insufficient sleep cause your body to be stressed and produce more stress hormones (which leads to weight gain), but now you know that it also causes less willpower so you make poor decisions (stopping at the fast food drive-thru on your way back).

So there you go Mr Hard Worker at the office who leaves at 10PM every night – now you know where all those pounds came from.

I wish I could walk in to a GNC store and buy myself some WILLPOWER capsules – Double Strength please! But unfortunately, we can’t.

But you can, however, do your brain a favour and minimize the fatigue, so that your willpower remains strong enough to help you get through the evenings and nights when you need it the most.

It also helps to stop gossiping, arguing unecessarily, and negativity in general – what a waste of time and brain power.

Wake up early and work on the stuff that requires more internal motivation to do. For me, this includes:

  • Writing blog posts/fitness/health related articles
  • Creating workout circuits for my Transformation Camp/clients
  • Creating content for my health and fitness talks and workshops for clients
  • My workouts

Your list may look different from mine … but I hope you get what I’m trying to say.

You DO NOT wake up early and browse facebook or check on your emails – in fact, I’ve found it most useful and most productive when I can delay checking my emails as late as possible and sometimes keeping my phone turned off so that there are no distractions.

So I get all my important work done first, before I check my email and let other people into my schedule– because once I get into my Inbox… then the whole day after that gets busy and I end up responding/reacting to things that get thrown at me. This is not a bad thing, but just like many others, I have discovered that it is best that I get the important stuff out of the way first.

You Can Do This… I Know You Can

Now some of you cannot even imagine getting out of bed at even 9AM. Then you laze around for another 30-minutes. Then you watch TV or funny YouTube videos for another 30-minutes before you decide to wake up, and then you figure out what your day will be like.

That, in my opinion, is a pathetic use of your time and the gifts/skills that you have… and trust me, I know, because I was that person many years ago.

And if I can change, then so can you.

Having done this for quite awhile now (going to bed early, and rising at 4:30 – 5AM latest), I’ve been able to accomplish so much more, be far more productive with work and writing, and less missed workouts. I’ve also been less stressed, and much happier in general.

In fact, almost ALL of the most successful people I work with (CEOs, CFOs, Directors, Entrepreneurs) all seem to get their workouts DONE early in the morning. Now these are really busy people but they carve out time in their schedule early in the morning to get their workouts done – surely this must be worth doing for them to do it. Right?

Right now as I’m writing this post – my willpower levels are at 100% – heck, I’d even say it feels like I’ve got a spare battery full of willpower with me right now.

My motivation levels are high, I am super-determined to have an AWESOME workout in a couple of hours at 7AM. The time now as I’m writing this post is 4:45AM.

Later at 7AM, I’m going to have an amazing workout… all because my willpower is at 100%.

I am also going to eat clean and nourish my body with real food all day, because my willpower is high.

Are You Ready to Set Your Alarm?

So, if you’re someone who’s been struggling with willpower, I invite you to try working out early in the morning. My Transformation Camp has workouts that start at 6:45 AM, and I know a couple of other bootcamps who start way earlier than that – to help you get your exercise routine DONE early in the morning.

Start your day early, be consistent, and reap the many rewards that come with it.

Here’s to more willpower!

Speak soon,


About the author

Noel Chelliah Noel Chelliah, ACE-LWMC, ACE-CPT, Pn1, is Malaysia's Top Transformation Expert. In 2012, he became the first Malaysian to hold the highly sought-after Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coaching certification. No stranger to being overweight, Noel has gone through a life-changing transformation himself, from fat, to fit. In 2012, Noel Chelliah established fitness history in Malaysia for winning the 2012 AFC Presenter Idol at the Asia Fitness Convention. Noel also serves as a Wellness Creative Consultant to numerous corporate organizations in the country. In his spare time, Noel serves the community with various programs that promote a healthier lifestyle, and enjoys playing with his dogs. Click here to read Noel's full bio.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Google September 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

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Kwame May 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm

What time do you go to bed if you can wake up by 5 am?


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