Kicking a bad habit or sticking to a new diet or exercise program requires a lot of determination.

Often, the success or failure of such programs depends almost entirely on the strength of a person's will. In this role, willpower can be compared to a muscle which requires a workout program of its own. Ladies' Home Journal describes a willpower regime with several exercises designed to improve resolve.It is necessary to create opportunities to use willpower often. Dieters should go to the grocery store and purchase their favorite food, no matter how fattening. Then, after bringing it home, they shouldn't open or eat any of the food for at least 48 hours.

An excessive gossiper might try stopping the next person offering a piece of juicy news and asking them to not talk about it for 24 hours.

Over-spenders can go to a department store and try on clothes until they find something that fits really well and looks terrific. Then, for a real willpower challenge, put off buying it.

What about couch potatoes? To break the routine, they should force themselves to spend an evening at home without turning on the TV. Then build up to two evenings or, for the ambitious, an entire weekend without turning on the tube.

After willpower exercises, a mental cool-down will maximize the benefits of the workout. Review feelings right before, during and after the test of resolve. When did willpower feel weakest or most elusive? What tricks or self-suggestions helped strengthen resolve? What pitfalls or negative thoughts weakened it? Remember what worked and apply these exercises to help build resolve against other bad habits.

Each change should be viewed as a series of small steps. Try stating an ultimate goal and putting it in writing. Then think about each of the steps necessary to reach that goal and write each step on an index card. After making the cards, put away all but the first one. When the first step is completed, write "done" on the card and hang it up as a reminder of success. Then repeat the process with each card.

Most importantly, learn how to forgive lapses. Forgiveness prevents a single willpower failure from short-circuiting an entire plan. Don't dwell on failures and mistakes. Recognize them, forgive them and then get to work on succeeding again.