New Year’s eve is the moment that we set new year’s resolutions, goals for the next year. But since many people skip or forget their goals already by February, many don’t even take the effort to formulate resolutions for the new year.

If we would only know about the willpower gap, resolution setters and non-setters would approach the concept of goal setting in a completely different way. With this knowledge, we can reduce the stress about goals quite a bit.

Goals often require willpower. Especially the goals that we set at the end of the year, since they are the ‘bigger goals’, goals that have meaning to us. If goals wouldn’t require willpower, we would achieve or even have achieved them, without any special effort.

Since goals require willpower, there are many who simply use “I simply don’t have willpower ” as an excuse not to follow up on goals, or even not to set goals. Willpower is not something that relates to your character, a moral attitude that you have or haven’t. And it also can’t grow or become more effective with increased commitment. That’s a misconception.

Willpower is not what you think it is, and it doesn’t work how you think it works. Willpower is simply a brain function.


Willpower has diverse functions:

–          Willpower creates focus

–          Willpower regulates emotions

–          Willpower helps to make choices

–          Willpower resists temptations


Studies have shown that our genes influence its intensity, but there’s more to it than genes.

At the end of the previous century, researchers discovered that willpower is something that is actually measurable. And that it is something that can deplete. If we use up our willpower for one thing, there’s less or no willpower left over for doing something else.


Most of us have naturally only 15 minutes of willpower at a time. 15 minutes. And willpower is necessary for the above functions. Even simple activities like checking emails and making choices on what you need to do with them deplete your willpower. So by the end of the day, there’s simply nothing left of that willpower.


So how do we expect to reach our goals if we don’t have the willpower to follow them up?


How to crank up your willpower to close the gap and reach your goals

The early bird catches the worm

Since your willpower is the highest in the morning, utilise it then. Use half an hour in the early morning to work on your goal.


Reduce activities that deplete your willpower

Knowing what creates the willpower gap, you can choose to automatize certain actions that deplete it. Staying with the example of e-mails, you can for example set up your inbox so that it sorts certain emails automatically in folders for you. You don’t have to choose what to do with mails, your mailbox does it for you.


Replenish your willpower

Replenish your willpower every now and then. Glucose, meditation, social connection, gratitude, and sleep restore willpower. If you need your willpower to do something, take a moment to meditate or practice gratitude beforehand.


I hope that this knowledge and tips can reduce some of the stress of goal setting and enable you to reach your goals more easily.