Do you have a lack of willpower? How a hypnotherapist can help

Do you believe you were born with a lack of willpower? When questioned, almost a third of people blame a lack of willpower for their inability to stick to something. In 2014, psychologist Walter Mischel published his book The Marshmallow Test, with the side note, ‘Understanding self-control and how to master it.’ This book uses his marshmallow test to dissect self-control – also known as willpower, so we have a greater understanding of what willpower is and how to learn it.



Willpower is the ability to resist the short-term temptation to meet a long-term goal, which Mischel says is an acquirable cognitive skill.

Mischel held his marshmallow test in 1960, when he gave a group of pre-schoolers in nursery a choice between a reward and a larger reward. The smaller reward was instant, but the larger reward came after waiting for twenty minutes.

The rewards consisted of various sweet treats, one of which was of course the marshmallow. The children seated individually had their choice of sweet treat placed in front of them. One they could choose to eat now, or two they could choose to eat after twenty minutes of waiting. The children were to ring the bell, which called the researcher back if they wanted to eat the smaller reward now. The alternative was to wait until the researcher returned after twenty minutes when they could eat the larger reward, providing they didn’t leave their chair.

Mischel followed the children as they grew and observed greater academic success, a better sense of self-worth, a healthier body weight, and more adaptive intelligence in the children that demonstrated more willpower during the marshmallow test. The good news is that self-control or willpower is a trait that will help you through life, and is something you can learn at any point.

How can hypnotherapy help?

Whether you have a specific goal, such as avoiding milk chocolate, or you’re trying to improve your self-control in general, the process is the same. Psychologist Roy Baumeister says you must first establish the motivation for change and set a clear goal, second monitor your behaviour in relation to the goal, and then use your ability to resist the short-term temptation to meet your long-term goal (willpower).

When you see a hypnotherapist, you will initially speak about your motivation for change and set some goals. This will form the foundation of your therapy sessions.

Often in life, we have rules that we follow habitually. These rules generally come from childhood and consist of the things that your parents or other authority figures thought important. Some are the rules of society, such as laws. Others are personal to your life and based on your upbringing. As an adult, you might leave some rules behind or create new ones. However, most of the time behaviour is so ingrained in us that we go through the motions without thinking too much about what we’re doing. This is why you might say to yourself you don’t want to eat cakes anymore. Yet catch yourself halfway through a slice of cake at a kid’s birthday party, without even realising you’d taken it. Your hypnotherapist will help you find tools to monitor your own behaviour, so you start to make attentive choices.  

Finding your willpower

Mischel states in his book that the power is not in the stimulus, but in how you mentally view it. Using a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” to explain how you can use the power of your own thought to change something from desirable to undesirable.

Using hypnosis, your hypnotherapist will help you change the way you see the thing you want to avoid. For example, associating the cake with squirming maggots. A very simple trick that you can use when you want to make a lifelong positive change for yourself.

You will finish your course of hypnotherapy with clearly defined goals based on genuine motivation, tools to ensure you monitor your behaviour, and hypnosis techniques to change the picture in your head, so you can make anything in your life undesirable.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Farnham GU9 & GU10
Written by Juliet Hollingsworth, MSc
Farnham GU9 & GU10

Juliet is a trauma-informed therapist. Her passion is helping people reach their potential through a combination of hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and transpersonal psychology. Juliet works online and face to face with clients across the world. (DHP Clinical Hypnotherapy & Psychotherapy. MSc Consciousness, Spirituality & Transpersonal psychology.)

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