Willpower is like horsepower in an old car: you don’t really know you have it until you step on the gas.
The truth is that many strong-willed people don’t really know that side of themselves because they buy into too many stereotypes.
Contrary to popular opinion, being strong-willed isn’t like the cliched “alpha males” in movies.
There’s a much more subtle way that you may be strong-willed if you can learn how to tap into it…
16 signs you’re a strong-willed person (even if it doesn’t feel like it)
1) Your values are non-negotiable
One of the biggest signs you’re a strong-willed person (even if it doesn’t feel like it) is that your values are not up for sale.
No matter how hard somebody pushes or bullies you, there is no way you will back down on what you believe and what you stand for.
There is a common idea of this as being something dramatic or loud, however that’s often not the case.
You may be a very quiet and respectful person who simply refuses to do or say things which go against your beliefs.
Think about the last time a person, job or situation required you to contravene your core values.
Did you comply and go against who you are, or did you resist and turn away?
As the late and great Tom Petty sings:
“Well I know what’s right
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground
And I won’t back down.”
2) You are decisive and stick to your choices
Being a strong-willed person is not about bells and whistles. It’s about knowing who you are and sticking to it despite the storms of life.
One of the top traits is that you are decisive and don’t let others bend your decisions to their will.
“No amount of persuasion can budge them once they have made up their mind,” writes Tian C.
If that’s you, then you may be more strong-willed than you realize.
There’s just a part of you that won’t bend or break to the whims of others, and your backbone stays strong in the face of adversity.
You may not use a loud voice or strong language, but when push comes to shove you stick to your guns.
Think back to the last time you made a decision. Did you waver, or did you stick to it?
3) You don’t lose yourself in love
Love can be difficult even for the most well-balanced person.
In opening ourselves up to someone else we also take a risk that they’ll hurt us badly.
One of the top signs you’re a strong-willed person (even if it doesn’t feel like it) is that you don’t open yourself up easily to love.
Don’t get me wrong:
You are open to it, and you express and receive love when it comes.
But you don’t dive in head first without thinking and then get scorched and burned.
You take it slow whenever possible and make sure you’re on the same page as your partner, because you know how painful unrequited love can be…
And you have enough willpower to hold yourself back from a one-sided heartbreak.
4) You don’t fear rejection
Rejection hurts everyone at some point or another. This can include rejection at work, at home in your family, among friends, or from a romantic partner.
It stings and burns a hole in the heart, so it’s natural that most of us seek to avoid it.
However, one of the most important signs you’re a strong-willed person is that you don’t fear rejection.
Even though it hurts you, you just don’t focus on avoiding it.
You live your life headfirst and deal with rejection if and when it occurs.
You accept that it’s sometimes part of life and not something anybody can really dodge.
Instead, you let rejection and disappointment make you stronger, and continue on with your social and personal life regardless.
You know you’re worthy of love and you don’t settle for anything less.
“Strong-willed people are confident and have nothing to prove.
They’re clear about their purpose and goals and prioritize their time and activities.
They’re decisive risk-takers and don’t delay, seek validation, or wait for permission.
Consequently, they’re uninhibited by fear of failure, disapproval, or rejection.”
5) You control your reactions in difficult situations
When something surprising or upsetting happens, it’s easy to lash out.
One of the clearest signs you’re a strong-willed person (even if it doesn’t feel like it) is that you don’t do this.
Sure, you absolutely want to lash out, yell or curse the world when life throws a curveball.
But you don’t.
The willpower inside yourself is strong enough to hold back the reaction you feel tempted to indulge in.
But you choose not to, because you can see rationally and emotionally that a strong reaction will actually worsen the crisis.
The same goes from problems you’re dealing with internally. Instead of letting them snowball, you let them be what they are and pass in their own time and teach you whatever is necessary.
“A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all.
Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
6) You push yourself to excel physically and mental
We’re all born with different strengths and weaknesses.
One of the most inspiring signs you’re a strong-willed person, however, is that you push yourself to excel mentally and physically.
On the mental side this may include things like learning a new language, mastering a skill, or adapting to new skills for your career.
On the physical side this could include things like sticking to a demanding fitness regimen, dieting or caring for your hygiene and appearance.
Part of having strong willpower is maximizing the benefits of those things you can control.
So if you can make sure you feel and look good, you will do so as much as possible.
That takes willpower to stick to, so if you’re optimizing your daily life then there’s a good chance you’re more strong-willed than you might have realized.
7) You’re highly self-sufficient
Another one of the key signs you’re a strong-willed person is that you’re highly self-sufficient.
You’re fine with asking for help or receiving help, but you don’t generally seek it out or need it.
When you need to figure something out, your first instinct is to do your best to do it on your own.
If you have a task to do, you tend to get it done on your own if possible.
During crises and difficult situations, people may often turn to you because of your ability to get things done.
They know that you’re someone they can count on to have the discipline and foresight to handle situations and needs that come up.
That’s all thanks to your hidden reserve of willpower.
As coach Darius Cikanavicius notes:
“You don’t fear being alone, yet you are not afraid of people either.
You don’t want others to save you, nor do you try to rescue or fundamentally change others.”
8) You’re realistic about your strengths and weaknesses
Willpower isn’t just about “trying harder” than everyone around you and never giving up.
It’s also about realism.
One of the strongest signs you’re a strong-willed person is that you accept your limitations and work within them.
Rather than being unrealistic, boastful or egotistical, you accept your shortcomings and move on from there.
If you’re terrible at marketing, you don’t bluster your way through a job that requires marketing skills. If you have trouble with directions, you don’t go on a solo backpacker trip through an uncharted region of Bhutan.
Instead, you save your willpower for those projects and adventures which you’ll be able to handle well.
Because you know what you’re good at and what you’re not.
9) You have a high level of patience
Another one of the most important signs you’re a strong-willed person is that you’re patient.
Patience is one of those underrated qualities that many people have in short supply these days.
When an answer or solution to a problem is just a Google search or smartphone swipe away, it can be very difficult to have patience.
That’s why biding your time and being ok without instant gratification is so rare and valuable in our day and age.
“Research shows that strong-minded people reflect and don’t just react, which allows them to ponder and analyze circumstances thoroughly in order to make the best of each situation.
This is why you tend to be patient with other people, yourself, and especially your goals.”
10) Your schedule is not up for grabs
One of the top things that people do with low willpower, is they let others steer their time and schedule.
When a business colleague needs to talk, they drop everything to attend to them.
When a new idea pops into their head they ditch everything and suddenly change direction.
That’s why one of the most important strong-willed characteristics is the ability to be disciplined and stick to a schedule.
Absolutely, you can adjust when necessary or urgent: but you don’t wrangle your schedule or let it be changed unnecessarily. You stick to what you planned to do when possible and only change it for a good reason.
“Strong-willed people are fiercely independent and want to manage themselves.
A self-starter, they are usually good at setting goals, accomplishing tasks and determining their own schedule and use of time.”
11) You think before you act
Being impulsive can be very damaging. Whether it’s impulsively sleeping with someone or impulsively quitting a job, it can sabotage your life in many ways…
But the truth is that it takes strong willpower to think before you act.
Even the most principled people fall prey to impulsive behavior now and then.
The less that you do so, the more that it’s a sign that you are a strong-willed person who can steer your own ship.
This video from TopThink makes a great point:
“If you have strong willpower then you’re probably more careful and analytical.
You reason problems out over time instead of making impulsive decisions, so if this sounds like you you may have more willpower than you realize.”
12) You have a growth-based mindset
There are two basic mindsets in life: a fixed mindset or a growth-based mindset.
The fixed mindset focuses on limits, past occurrences and hesitant analysis of what can happen.
The growth mindset focuses on possibilities, future opportunities and an optimistic ideal for upcoming objectives.
One mindset seeks safety and familiarity, the other seeks risk and growth.
When you have strong willpower, you don’t let the past dictate the future.
You embrace a growth-based mindset, because you know that only you are the captain of your soul and will define how you act going forward.
13) You don’t need to be understood to feel good inside
Being misunderstood hurts, and can be a very disillusioning experience.
Humans are tribal animals, after all, and it’s easy to start to feel alienated and unappreciated when we feel misunderstood.
The truth is that far too many of us focus on all the ways we’re different instead of the ways we’re linked and connected.
As someone with a strong will, you will not depend on being misunderstood to live your life and live your values.
Even when you face opposition from the crowd, you’ll only see it as a necessary step to achievement and self-actualization.
“A weak gladiator will leave the floor and join the spectators in the stands after being misunderstood, maligned, and massacred.
“A mentally strong person will stay. They are okay with being misunderstood — and everything that comes with it — because they know that it’s part and parcel with success.
“Greatness is always a few steps after a chorus of who do you think you are?” writes MaryBeth Gronek.
14) You’re not chasing applause
Related to the last point: as a strong-willed person you don’t chase applause.
If people love you or the work you do, that’s great!
If they think you’re stupid or wrong, that’s great!
You keep going, putting one foot in front of the other and living by your principles.
The sound of applause and compliments doesn’t give you the rosy glow that it does for some.
It’s more like elevator music, just good for the background and actually kind of annoying if it goes on too long.
The same goes for criticism, jealousy or toxic reactions: they’re just background noise.
15) Jealousy is nowhere on your radar
Becoming jealous of others is something that happens to most of us at one time or another.
But for the strong-willed person, jealousy is nowhere on their radar.
You may have tasted envy a time of two before, but you found its flavor bitter and disgusting and you don’t want any more of it.
Jealousy is an emotional response that you block out and ignore because it’s counterproductive and stupid.
You measure yourself of today by the you of yesterday and use that to track progress.
You’re not interested in who has a better partner, home or career. You’re interested in achieving your goals and finding inner fulfillment.
This singular focus takes strong will!
16) You’re not into the blame game
We live in a world with more than enough blame to go around!
Between the greedy corporations, warmongers, dishonest people and lies, there are so many forces and individuals we can blame for the problems in our life.
I know I’ve done my fair share of blame, including blaming myself!
But for someone who is strong-willed, blame becomes more and more repulsive. It just doesn’t get results…
One of the biggest signs you’re a strong-willed person is that you instinctively shy away from focusing on blame…
Even in a situation where blame is obvious, you don’t revel in it. You state the facts and then focus on a potential solution.
Blame divides us, whereas working together on solutions unites us.
It takes strong willpower to realize that and stick to it.
“While it may be tempting to make excuses, complain about other people, and avoid difficult circumstances, mentally strong people refuse to waste time on unproductive activities.”
Is being strong-willed a good thing?
If you do have this reservoir of strong willpower, you’re probably wondering if it’s more or less a good thing.
The answer is yes.
Willpower is like the wind: it generates enormous force which you can use to power things.
Willpower is a vital instrument for achieving your dreams and powering forward in life.
Now that you know if you’re strong-willed, you can go about achieving your full potential instead of living down to the idea that you don’t have strong will.