Today we’re talking about willpower. It’s funny, just the words ‘will’ and ‘power’ sound like we have to strong-arm ourselves into something, don’t they? The dictionary defines willpower as: a combination of determination and self-discipline that enables somebody to do something despite the difficulties involved.
I’m not a huge fan of willpower and here’s why:
- It fluctuates and is not something we can always drum up when we need it.
- Trying to exert too much of it can lead to things like as overeating, self loathing, and giving up altogether.
- If we can’t summon enough willpower to do something or resist something, it can send us into a cycle of shame, despair and self-hatred.
Here’s the thing, willpower is not inherently bad. It’s tied to self-control which is a valuable skill we learn as children. We learn how to delay instant gratification for long-term gain and how to push through obstacles when we really want something. However, will power varies from person to person and depends on time of day, mood, and other factors. It’s not something we can always summon.
The good news? If we want to change something in our lives, there are easier and more powerful ways!
1. Change your environment.
Our environment is extremely powerful. I’m talking about our physical environment here but mental and social are important too. Here’s an example from my own life. Girl Scout Cookies, Tagalongs in particular, are SO delicious and my weakness. Every year I vow to put two boxes in the freezer and have only 2 cookies a night until they’re gone. Every year, I go through the same routine of eating two, going back to the freezer five minutes later, eating two more, etc. until the entire box is gone. Upon realizing I have no willpower when it comes to Girl Scout cookies, I end up putting the second box in the garbage. Every. Year. So, this year I’ve finally realized (I hope) that I can’t keep Girl Scout cookies in my house. Those smooth chocolate peanut butter discs are too addictive to resist!
Another example… If you go to a restaurant for lunch and there’s a big buffet full of all kinds of enticing, yet very unhealthy options and a teeny, tiny dimly lit salad bar in the corner, you’ll probably have to use some major willpower to sidle up to that salad bar. And if you’re really hungry and in a hurry? Forget about it.
However, if you walked into a restaurant that was well-lit, had music playing and a bevy of healthy and delicious smelling lunch options that were displayed beautifully, you’re likely to happily choose one of those. Willpower isn’t needed.
2. Make it easier.
If something is difficult to do, we are not likely to do it unless we have a lot of motivation or willpower in that moment. The solution?
Remove any obstacles. Make it easier on yourself! Is it just me or can the slightest, tiniest thing prevent you from working out? If I don’t have my workout clothes OUTSIDE of my dresser, and my shoes laid out and ready to go, and my breakfast snack in the kitchen, I won’t exercise. That tiny step of having to open my dresser and the brain power it requires to pick out clothes can be enough for me to say ‘To heck with this’ and sleep in. Find a way to make it easier to do.
3. Get support!
Surround yourself with people who have similar goals and desires, and feed off their energy. Use their support when you have no willpower and rely on them for strength when you’re out. For example, if you’re running a business from home, it’s important to have a community of like minded business owners who are also operating out of their home. You can cheer each other on, help each other through difficult times, and inspire each other to create fun breaks and dance sessions throughout the day. The result? Less willpower is needed to push through the day or force yourself take a break.
This is why Weight Watchers works. Accountability and support in the form of weekly meetings helps people stay on track. It’s very powerful.
Bottom line: Willpower and self-control are useful tools to pull out when needed. BUT…there are easier and more fun ways to reach our goals. Focus on these and you’re much more likely to get where you want to go.
Here’s to a supportive environment, ease and people who lift you up! How can you use these in your own life?