Prepare for battle

In Part One of the article we got re-acquainted with the Monkey and the Genius, who made an appearance in my previous series on Mindset and Willpower for High Performance.

Yesterday we looked at the constant battle of wills between these two. In this part of the article I’ll tell you how to control them and talk you through some exercises to help you do so.


To learn how to win a willpower challenge it’s useful to take a look at its dynamic.

First of all we feel an impulse

A desire to do something worth of the Monkey side of ourselves. This could be checking emails, having a snack, smoking a cigarette and so on.

The impulse generally comes after a trigger

That could be the sight of a cookie, the smell of a cigarette, a nice girl passing by. But impulses may also come automatically at certain hours of the day without any particular external stimulation.

For example how many of you are feeling like a good beer around 4pm knowing that in few hours your shift will be over?

We literally feel the impulse inside our body as an impellent need to have something or do something. Upon the arising of that feeling we also sense a contrasting need for control.

So, trigger, impulse, control = battle.

Ladies and gents please place your bets!

how to increase willpower_2Know yourself, know your enemy

Know yourself, know your enemy is an ancient saying that perfectly explains the best strategy to win every willpower challenge that we might face.

When I coach my clients I generally ask them to keep a diary where they need to write their food and drinks daily. I also ask them to put a note at particular times of the day when they feel cravings for sweets or alcohol.

This simple exercise generally is enough to reduce bad food choices and drinks by a good 70%.

Upon noticing a repetitive craving is easy to look for solutions to either stop the it or totally make it disappear.


This simple exercise has the power to change dramatically your life by cultivating awareness.

Once again – know yourself, know your enemy.

That’s what you need to do:

1) Buy a nice diary or create a note using an app like Evernote.

2) Write down daily challenges

3) During the day pay attention to your feelings and note when you feel a willpower challenge

4) When and where was it? What was it about?

5) How did you feel? Like in the exercise I proposed in my past article, it is useful to stop reflecting on intentions (what is the impulse and what triggered it), emotions (what emotion are you feeling) and sensations (where do you feel it in your body)

6) Note if you managed to win the challenge or you simply fell into temptation.

7) Make a lucky streak and when you reach 7 wins reward yourself with whatever you feel like.

Something as simple as keeping a diary to write down your Daily Challenges can help you beat your brain Monkey and help your Genius. 

Connect with Expert Davide Alonsi

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