Willpower is a fickle friend, so strong and sure in under some circumstances, and well, just weak in others. Generally we call on willpower we need some extra- stick-to-it-ness. When faced with a challenge: take off some weight, finish a writing project, or learning to do something new/differently. Seems to me the greater the challenge the easier it is for willpower to slip away. Of course that is not a hard and fast rule, some people seem to have innate endless easy flowing spring of will power and others have to dig through clay to find a trickle. And for most of us we can draw on our willpower more readily and with less effort in some aspects of life, say career and caring for the family, than say diet and exercise.
Hope, has incredible willpower when it comes her work done. She’s a professor who puts developing her syllabus, grading papers and meeting with her students first and foremost. But when it comes to taking care of her health and diet, not so much, and this bothered her, until she figured out how to make her willpower work for her as hard and well for her personal health as for her career.
8 Tips to boost your willpower
1. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. Paint a compelling vision of your desired future, self, job, relationship… It is a long hard haul to keep moving forward when you don’t have a clear, irresistible vision of when you want. You want to lose 15 pounds, great, but that seems pretty abstract. “I am strong, lean and 15 pounds lighter in body and spirit. I embrace the experience of life with its joys and challenges. I am happy with enough energy to function optimally at work, home and at play.” That is compelling and accentuates the positive.
2. Meet and get to know your Motivation. What are you saying yes to when you say no? In other words, why is losing weight, finishing that book or sticking with an exercise plan important to you… Really, personally important. For Rose, she did not want to go on high blood pressure medication and wants to be the best role model she can be for her nephew. Your motivation is a key factor in boosting your willpower. Motivation is a touch stone to return to over time.
3. Practice makes perfect. Trial and correction is key. Give your self time to develop a new habit, which when you get right down it is 9/10 what any of us is trying to do when we calling on our will power. Things not going smoothly is not a failure, nor does it equal “I’ll never be able to…” Give yourself a break. Give yourself time. As my dance family girlfriends say, “Put on your big girl dance pants, toss on your heels and if you fall on your @$$, you’ll know that move just might need a bit more practice.”
4. Be true blue to you. Reach down and deep into your values and use these to help move you forward. Self-control is boosted when people conjure up powerful thought of the things they value in life. I can not emphasis this enough. When are confronted with situations that are unhealthy for you-get out. I know that can be easier said that done, dig in dig deep drawn on your inner strength and values to make healthy decisions, especially when they are not the easy decisions.
5. Call in the Calvary. If you need some help, get it. Call on your support network of family, friends, professionals, whomever. Reach out- that’s why the buddy system can be such a useful approach for folks.
6. Power Up. Make sure you have the fuel you need. There is emerging evidence that that restoring glucose levels appears to replenish self-control. The findings make sense because it’s long been known that glucose fuels many brain functions. Having a bite to eat appears to help boost a person’s willpower. This may explain why smokers trying to quit or students trying to focus on studying often turn to food to sustain themselves. It goes without saying step away from the candy bars, Girl Scout cookies, and reach for some whole foods (a few nuts, a piece of fruit…).
7. Anticipate and plan for times of low self-control. We are human not super human, there are going to be ebbs in exercising you will power, you can do some anticipating and planning. Sometimes timing is everything. Don’t start a complex task, like starting your tax return after an irritating drive home. I don’t grocery shop when I am hungry, making it a whole lot easier to breeze by the ice cream.
8. Set the next finish line. When you reach the finish line of your vision. Set a new to help keep you moving forward. Once, Rose lost some weight and got her exercise routine set, finding that indeed she did not need to go on high blood pressure medicine, she decided to go on a hiking trip, that involve time in the Grand Canyon, which help her keep her willpower boosted.