Willpower: control deliberately exerted to do something or to restrain one’s own impulses.
Willpower is a tricky thing. I always seem to be lacking when it comes to exercising it or simply having it at all! I personally cannot rely on it to be successful and I don’t think that you should either. Say what? Read on.
When I start working with new clients I like to ask them various questions to get to know them and find out what brought them to where they are now. We do a little client history and I always ask: “why do you feel you’ve been unsuccessful in reaching your goals up to this point?” Obviously the reasons vary from person to person but the reason I hear most often is “I just don’t have the willpower to stay away from junky food.”
When I hear this I get excited. No, I’m not happy because they feel like they’re not good at something. What kind of terrible person do you think I am!? I get excited because when they tell me they think their inability to be successful is based on their lack of willpower, I know that with a few simple tweaks to their current routine, I can help them! Willpower-Shmillpower.
I talk all about this in my video below. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it after you watch! Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org any time with questions you may have!
The juicy takeaways? Here are some of my nuggets o’ wisdom:
Either people think you’ve got to have willpower before you hit success or they rely on willpower to keep them to their goal. The problem is that, when the day overtakes you, the chances of you following your willpower? Yeah, that’s right: slim to none. Say it like you mean it ‘cuz I know you’ve been there before (hey, so have I).
Let’s talk about a way you can get around this: a way to get around willpower becauseeee…..
#1: Forget about the willpower. Set yourself up ahead of time for the success.
Instead, schedule it in for yourself. Create some kind of contract with yourself, one that will automate your choices for you.
Let’s take my working out example.
If my plan is to work out every morning at 5 am, I have to make that, in my head, a non-negotiable. Thats it. It’s an appointment. Then, I don’t need to rely on my willpower because I’ve already decided that I’m going to do it…so I end up setting up triggers that will help me keep to that time.
My “checks” against myself, in order to keep this appointment up, are:
- Getting to bed earlier to compensate for an early wake up time (skip the late afternoon/early evening caffeine and don’t have any caffeine after 12pm),
- I opt to keep my workout clothes right on hand (and, BONUS: it’s a cute outfit!)
- Setting a radio alarm far, far away from my clutches to avoid the temptation to hit snooze 5 times.
- Note: if you want to make waking up early a regular routine, this great app tracks my sleep and wakes me up when I’m in my lightest stage of sleep so I don’t feel groggy but, rather, refreshed.
The same is true for eating well. Right now, I’m creating a new weight loss and eating program. The guinea pig is me, folks. But that also means that I get to go through and fix all the roadblocks I know you’re going to face.
I’m in the middle of the second week. And I’ve made a commitment, in my mind, to get rid of any ifs, ands or buts. This means that I don’t have to rely on willpower. So I end up setting up for success ahead of time precisely because I know that willpower fails you, man! It fails you if you rely singularly on it. Wayyy too much pressure, right?
So this means I plan ahead of time, I shop ahead of time and I meal prep ahead of time. On the other side of that, I also know what foods I will not be eating because, practically speaking, they’re not there and they’re not prepped (here’s where being “lazy” helps). But when you move away from the practical, mentally speaking, I’ve done this because I don’t want anything to take away from my commitment to completing this goal.
So, yes, it’s a little bit of a “mind game”. But hey, the good news is, it’s not all on you. It’s about the system you set up for success.
#2: Identify your blocks
So, for me personally, as a nutritionist, I’ve got the eating well down. It’s what I do, right? The working out part…mmm, I need some help and accountability (hey, I’m not afraid to admit it – or ask for it!).
You have to move your body in some shape or form.
So, hey, I hired a trainer. And it’s made all the difference in the world. Not because I learned anything amazing or lost 10 pounds in 1 week. It’s because I am held accountable by somebody who’s working with me, has my best interests at heart and pushes me to push my limits.
Again, this means I don’t need willpower.
Because, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t do it. I kid you not. That’s seriously pathetic. But that’s because there was no accountability present: I didn’t have to answer to anybody.
Lets put aside the monetary aspect for a hot minute: I wasn’t even committing to myself. I figured, “meh, screw it. Let’s just stay in bed”. So, I know from personal experience that doesn’t work for me. Because I identified this as a personal block – which is to say, it’s happened more than once already – and this is primarily what stops me, I decided to address it in instead, in any way I could. For me, this was hiring a trainer.
But maybe it’s the eating that’s got you stumped. In which case you would take care of the aspect you could take care of and identify what you needed help with: in this case, hiring a nutritionist or someone like myself to set out a whole new way of eating and a lifestyle plan that revolves around this.
THIS is why willpower sucks so hard: willpower is difficult to just summon like a genie. And, let’s be honest here, none of us are Bruce Lee, okay? If you don’t prop it up with smart supports, you will most likely lose. How do I know this? Exhibit A: your current state. Exhibit B: my lack of working out, pre-trainer.
Willpower is hard. You know what’s easy? The right plan and systems, done ahead of time. Probability is usually against you, especially in the beginning. Its an uphill climb because none of it is a habit yet. How do you get probability on your side? Set yourself up for success.
So go ahead. Try this: set a goal. Then take the right actions to get there and screw willpower.