It's not that easy.
Your willpower doesn't just sit around waiting for you to use it. It shows up sometimes and other times it's no where to be found! It's fleeting but the good news is, it's re-chargeable! You start the day with a full tank of willpower but the bad news is: as you go through the day, you use it up little by little...so when you get to the end of the day and late night snacking is calling your name, it's REALLY TOUGH to ignore those voices and put down the cereal or ice cream.
Willpower is like a fast twitch muscle that gets tired and needs rest. It's incredibly powerful, but has no endurance. You can work on that muscle and make it stronger, but it will still get tired sometimes! Willpower is also like gas in your car...when you resist something tempting, you use some up. The more you resist, the more empty your tank gets, until you run out of gas...which is not where you want to be.
That's not all...
There have been studies that show that the more willpower you use for one task, the more your blood glucose levels drop. Crazy huh? Since willpower is a mental muscle and doesn't bounce back quickly...if you employ it for one task, there will be less power available for the next unless you refuel. To do that, you'll want to eat foods that elevate blood sugar evenly over long periods, like complex carbs and proteins.
Think about this...
What are your "default settings"? Because whatever they are...you're going to fall back on those when our willpower is low. Will you grab a bag of chips or cookies OR a bag of carrots? You can adjust your "default settings" over time...these are called NEW HABITS! We focus a lot on building those in our accountability groups. I read once that it takes roughly 66 days to build a new habit...not the typical 21 days you normally hear about. So be patient with yourself! Be CONSISTENT and slowly add in some healthier habits. Focus on things that you can do for the long term and just build into your life. Then once you get those down, focus on some different ones to continually be growing and changing.
The reason we get hung up on willpower is because we don't focus on it enough. We use it all up without reserving some of it throughout the day....this means being intentional about what you buy and keep in your house and staying away from the treats in the break room at work. If you're constantly allowing yourself to have temptations right in front of you, you're going to constantly be using up your willpower and have nothing left over by the end of the day.
Some other ways your willpower gets taxed:
- Taking tests
- Trying to impress others
- Coping with fear
- Suppressing emotion or impulses
- Doing something you don't enjoy
- Selecting long-term over short-term rewards
- Implementing new behaviors
- Filtering distractions
Every day we run into these issues and more...it's up to us to PROTECT our willpower and our actions!
A few ideas:
1) Don't spread your willpower too thin. You have a limited supply of willpower, so decide what matters and reserve your willpower for that.
2) Monitor your fuel gauge. Pay attention to how you're feeling and if your willpower is lacking, don't put yourself into situations where you're going to compromise your goals and go crazy.
3) Realize that your willpower is not infinite...so stop beating yourself up when you struggle with it. We all struggle with it but you CAN make it stronger!
(This topic was adapted from the book The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results)