Aurora Arlt – @Aurora_HealthyFit
The ability to pursue a long-term vision by temporarily ignoring short-term pleasure and/or discomfort.
We often think of willpower as a matter of character or a type of virtue. The reality is that willpower is very much a biological function. It is basically like a muscle. With practice, it can be strengthened and, with overuse, it can be fatigued. Our willpower is finite. We are only given so much willpower in one day to complete the tasks needed to reach our vision.
I like to think of my willpower as a bucket of water. When I wake up in the morning, the bucket is completely full. My goal is to prevent all of it from spilling out by the end of the day.
What takes away from our willpower? How does it run out?
Two major things: self-control and decision making.
Everyday we practice self-control – whether it be in terms of our nutrition and fitness or our emotions and feelings. What this usually ends up looking like is: “No, I can’t do that” or “That’s bad, I can’t eat that” or “Stop thinking about that burrito, this is healthy, eat this.” All of these thoughts are a practice of self-control. The problem is that each time we have to expend energy to control ourselves, a leak springs in our bucket of willpower.
On top of that, we spend each day making (what feels like) hundreds of decisions. Unfortunately, most of those decision are usually super meaningless and quite frankly, irrelevant. We spend way too much time deciding between this or that / these or those. Every time we have to make a decision, a little bit more of our willpower leaks out. Which just adds to the amount already being dumped out by our self control.
By the end of the day, we are completely depleted of willpower. So, we end up binge eating on the couch while mindlessly flipping through channels. And that’s because we have nothing left to give. It’s not a necessarily a testament of our character, nor does it mean that our virtues aren’t strong enough. It simply means that we do not have the awareness or developed skills to make sure our bucket of willpower remains full enough by the end of the day to make good choices – the kind of choices we want to make because we know they align with our vision.
How do we keep our bucket of willpower full?
Eliminate some of the decisions we have to make.
Pick out your clothes the night before so you don’t waste energy and precious willpower first thing in the morning deciding what to wear. Pack or plan your food for the next day. Have your purse or keys and wallet conveniently placed somewhere. Have your gym bag packed and ready to grab and go. The key is to eliminate the number of excuses or ways for a day to go wrong by planning and preparing ahead of time. This will ensure your willpower bucket stays full (and your sanity in tact.)
Build healthy habits so the practice of self-control takes less energy.
My first piece of advice is to stop telling yourself “No!” all of the time. For example, with following a nutrition plan, instead of saying “No, you can’t have that!” say “Not right now.” Delay instant gratification. This tricks your mind into thinking, “Okay, not right now, but maybe later. I can deal with that.” If you can save that craving for say a cheat meal or a cheat day, then you have won the battle of self-control AND you didn’t spill anything from your bucket of willpower. #winning
What if it’s just one of those days?
Always plan and prepare for moments of depleted willpower.
It’s bound to happen. All of us have those days where no matter how good our intentions are, nothing goes as planned. We spend all day fighting the cravings while going to meeting after meeting, phone call after phone call. We deal with traffic on the way to the gym. Forgot to pack our headphones. Annoyed, frustrated. The last thing we want to do is go home and cook up a healthy meal. So, just be aware that this is bound to happen and create some solutions to avoid making poor choices. For example, have some ready to go frozen healthy meals that take just a minute or 2 to heat up. Also, be sure to have healthy snacks and drink options around you at all times. That way in those moments of depletion, you can have something convenient, but know that it’s a better choice.
To sum it up:
- Eliminate the number of decisions you have to make in a day by preparing the night before.
- Rely on healthy habits as a practice of self-control. Delay gratification.
- Plan ahead for those moments or days when your willpower is depleted.
All of these practices will keep your willpower bucket full and allow you to stay on track to crush your goals and reach your vision. Go be great!
Until next time
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