Willpower: don't bank on it

You're on a diet kick, right? Or "changing your eating habits"...whatever you'd like to call it.

You want to kick a bad habit. Trying not to drink all of the wine.

You're trying to power through a never-ending work or school assignment to excel and do well.

You're trying to make a change in your life.

So what do you do? Change 9 things at once, never come up with a solid action plan to work with from the beginning and hope that you have enough willpower to stay the course and reach your goal.

First off, many people try to change too many things all at the same time. For instance, they have a fat loss goal. They decided that in order to be successful and attain said fat loss goal within their (usually impractical) time frame,  A- they need to commit to working out 6 times per week, twice per day is best B- cut out all sugar and sweets C- cut out all CARBS because they're evil and make you fat D- cut out all alcohol E- significantly cut their calories, etc.

I can tell you right now that you will soon find yourself elbow deep in a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos while gulping a margarita sugar-bomb if the above is your "plan."  You actually don't have a plan at all...you're just making a bunch of rules.  More on why too many changes does NOT always equal better results on another day.

I want to talk about willpower in a way that isn't normally addressed.

You see, many people view willpower as a limited resource. Many people think the more you "use," the less you will have.

Going back to the fat loss goal, let's talk about your willpower over the course of a week.

  • Monday - you killed it. You prepped your meals on Sunday and you're very motivated to stay the course. You're bragging about your homemade dressing to everyone at the office. You're totally going to share it on Facebook.
  • Tuesday - Sam's birthday at the office. You're presented with cupcakes... looks tempting but you're still armed with your previously prepared meals from Sunday so you pass. Phew. Keep focused. It's only day two. Just get over it already.
  • Wednesday - Your prepped food supply is getting low.. you now ...have to.... go OUT FOR LUNCH! You frantically search the menu for a "healthy" option. The healthy options are there buuuuut they're no where near as tempting as the asiago cheese, bacon bit smothered chicken fettuccine alfredo. But you know you have to be strong here. You think of your motivators. Your fears. Your desires. And you pass. But you do eat a piece (or 3) of bread that they so inconsiderately placed right in front of you before your meal (don't they know you're trying not to eat that stuff!?) Rude. Minor deviation from the plan but you're victorious over the entree department. Patience is wearing thin but you've told yourself you're strong enough to fight through this. Stay the course.
  • Thursday - Wednesday night you made a large, healthy dinner that provided you some left overs. Yesterdays lunch was really stressful and you didn't want that to happen again. You came prepared to face the lingering cupcakes from Sam's birthday celebration on Tuesday. They still look delicious....You pick one up...and smell it....fantasize about eating it.... AND THEN YOU DUNKED THAT SHIT IN THE GARBAGE! Get the eff outta there. It's been four days since you've started this journey and you're getting the hangry/carb-deprived combo. Not. Good. For. Anybody. Later, you force yourself to go to sleep hungry before you raid the fridge at home. You're not too stoked about anything right now.
  • Friday - Day five. Last day of the work week. You begrudgingly gnaw on your healthy lunch as everyone indulges in take out, fast food, etc. You think...this sucks. Is this even worth it? Maybe I'm just not meant to be leaner/thinner/smaller. This is too hard, too stressful. Dinner is when you deviate from your "plan" and you reward yourself . These past five days have been hard and you feel sorry for yourself. Your willpower has been drained and your tank is empty. Saturday and Sunday goes down the crapper and you're back to square one next Monday.

As the days went by, even though each day you were accomplishing something...you set yourself up for failure because you were only riding on your willpower to get you through.  You defaulted to willpower over formulating a solid action plan. The biggest mistake you made was assuming that you had a limited and finite amount of willpower. That each time you "used it", you then had less of it available. Instead of viewing each of those feats as a sense of empowerment, you felt drained.

How you think about willpower will determine how effective it is.

Do you think the more willpower you exercise, the more confident you will become?

Or do you think you only have so much to give and it will run out after so much wear and tear?

The Henry Ford quote "whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right" really takes the cake here. It's all about your mindset and attitude.

Do you genuinely believe your willpower will help you overcome or are you just hoping it happens?

You need to take a positive approach to willpower and try to think that the more you use it, the better you will get at tackling new challenges. Keep the ball rolling and generate a positive momentum. Think "if I had no problem throwing out that cupcake the other day, I can easily keep this up. It was actually really empowering to do. I showed that cupcake who was in charge. I actually spared someone else from eating it so that's worth double points. It was easier than I thought and I'm now that much closer to my goals because of my dunking skills. I'm awesome."

When I hit a goal, it just makes me want to set and exceed new ones! It gets me pumped up. I have learned to embrace the positive growth and achievement that comes with challenges. I need them. I look for challenges. It keeps me on my toes. You need to draw positivity from previous accomplishments. Remind yourself of how awesome you are. Positive self talk and self love. More on what self love should mean here. 

Remember, willpower is another tool in your tool belt when working to achieve a goal. Don't put all of your eggs in the infinitely large willpower basket.

If this is a concept you're struggling with, we can help. Reaching a goal always takes a multi-method approach. The experience, guidance and care from our coaches at St. Pete Strength and Conditioning can help you develop the habits it takes to create that positive snowball effect.

Click here to sign up for your free trial to experience the SPSC difference.