"I have such bad willpower!"
Sound familiar? Maybe you do, or perhaps you just become far too reliant on this mysterious thing that we all feel we could do with more of.
So what is willpower? How can you improve it?
Maybe this is not the question you should be asking yourself. Maybe thinking about how you can begin to be less dependent on it, could set you up for far more success in the long run.
Think of your willpower as a muscle, just like any other physical muscle you have in your body. If I asked you to do one bicep curl using a weight that is comfortable to you, this wouldn’t be a problem. How about 10? Maybe you would begin to struggle, maybe not. How about if I asked you to do 10 bicep curls every 10 minutes for the next 10 hours. By the end of this, you would really be struggling. By repeatedly using the same muscle over and over and over again, it becomes overworked, tired and weaker. Think of your willpower in this way. If you rely on it in order to make healthy choices consistently throughout the day, by the end, your willpower will begin to struggle. After those 10 hours it will become as weak as your bicep would, then picture how it would begin to feel after the next 10 hours or even the next few days. This is why your ‘willpower’ always lets you down.
So, how do I become less reliant on it?
Just like water and electricity, we typically go down the path of least resistance.
This makes sense for us to do, as we encounter the least amount of trouble and get to where we want to in the most direct way.
Unfortunately, for many of us, this path involves making quick, convenient, and unhealthy decisions throughout our day. It may be just having that quick on-the-go lunch, or taking the elevator rather than the stairs, because these are easier to do and create less ‘friction’ on the journey of our day. So how can we flip this?
How do we make our path of least resistance as healthy as possible?
Well, it could be as simple as leaving your trainers at your front door rather than in the cupboard, so you see them every morning when you make your coffee.
It could be moving a bowl full of fruit into reaching distance of your favourite chair, saving you from having to venture into the kitchen and being tempted by all of the treats in the cupboards.
Or, it could be leaving your workout clothes out ready to put on first thing. Now you're already dressed for that morning walk or exercise class you booked onto.
Better yet, how can we create more friction for those less healthy choices?
You could brush your teeth earlier in the night, leaving you less likely to late night binge on your favourite crisps (nobody wants minty crisps!), or perhaps you could turn your wi-fi off at a certain time to prevent late night scrolling on your phone.
By making healthier choices as ‘friction free’ as possible and unhealthier choices more difficult, you will begin to see a shift. Your path of least resistance will become one that benefits you with regard to achieving your goals, rather than being a hinderance.