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How Will Fails


Techniques Willpower > How Will Fails

Low blood glucose | Limiting beliefs | Damaging self talk | Overconfidence | See also


Using willpower can help get you what you want. But sometimes it fails. Here's ways it happens and what to do about it.

Low blood glucose


Willpower can fail when the muscle effect can take its toll and any physical or especially mental effort can weaken your resolve as the blood glucose levels are depleted, leaving insufficient for the high mental effort that exercising the will requires.

This is a method that interrogators deliberately use as they wear down their subjects. Children use it too in nagging their parents until they get what they want.


The simple solution is to ensure you have a good supply of blood glucose before any task that needs willpower, whether this is for self-control or commanding others. A quick way of doing this is with the same type of glucose energy drink that sportspeople use.

Limiting beliefs


Sometimes we develop limiting beliefs that hold us back and prevent us from achieving our potential. Beliefs such as 'I am weak' and 'I must obey others' often start in childhood and persist long into adulthood.

If you believe that you have no self control then you will create this self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe that others are superior, then you will give in whenever your will is pitted against others.


The reverse is also true. If you have empowering beliefs then you can have much greater self-control, be able to hold your own in any debate and find it far easier to impose your will on others.

A way to change beliefs is to examine them, realizing what they are and questioning how they came about. Then changing them to something more useful. If you keep acting as if a belief is true then there is a good chance that it will become embedded.

Another way is reframing, looking at things differently in a way that makes the need to change belief such that it aligns with the new viewpoint.

Damaging self talk


Another major cause of failed will is destructive self-talk. We tell ourselves that we will fail, that it is not worth it, that it is bad to argue, that we will lose out, and so on. In doing so there is a dual effect. First, the negative self-talk demotivates us, making us feel like giving in. There is also a multiplier as the simple cognitive effort of this mental chatter also drains us, taking away resource from the will. 


Stopping self-talk altogether is almost impossible, but you can do a lot to change the content. If you are destroying your will by what you say to yourself, you can change this with a range of methods such as:

  • Interrupting the voice as it is whispering in your ear and having a good argument with it.
  • Changing the pattern of what is said, replacing the damaging words with encouraging ones.
  • Changing the voice so it sounds weak, dull and ignorant.
  • Telling the voice to just shut up!



Sometimes we can fail in tasks that require willpower by being overconfident in our abilities to cope. In this way we jump into negotiations without adequate preparation or get involved in a battle of wills when we are tired.


Be more realistic in assessing threats, situations and your ability to cope. Prepare for events you can see ahead, including physically and mentally. Get a fair assessment of the people you will be pitted against, including their willpower and ability to argue their case.

It can sometimes be difficult to see yourself. In such cases it can help to get an independent honest friend who will give you a true opinion.

See also

Beliefs, Overconfidence Barrier


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