Willpower is Overrated!

Are you working towards a goal but can’t seem to make progress? Do you beat yourself up for not being disciplined enough to fight temptations, make a change, or get started with something?

But the problem could be JUST THAT!… the fact that you are relying on SELF-DISCIPLINE and WILLPOWER!  I hear it a lot… “I just need to make myself do it” (such as in the case of starting regular exercise)… or… “I’ just need to STOP eating those sweets”  (in regards to fighting temptations).  But willpower and self-discipline only go so far. It takes a lot of mental energy to fight temptation… and the more energy it sucks up, the higher the chance of eventually giving in (like talking yourself into, or out of, something) during a weak moment.

It’s inevitable that you’ll need to exercise self-discipline to some extent, but why not make it easier on yourself by minimizing how much of those limited “self-control” reserves you need to tap in to? Quit relying ONLY on willpower and self-discipline! Set yourself up for success by following these 4 steps:

  1. Create an environment for success! So if you want to eat healthier, it would probably be a  good idea to rid your house of all the junk foods/beverages that are temptations for you.  I’m not saying you can’t eat those “treats” ever again. Trust me, you will still have plenty of opportunity!  There are enough temptations outside of your home that you have no control over—- like the options at the store, restaurants, social gatherings, special occasions and holidays, and possibly even at work. These are the situations you should be saving your “self-disipline reserves” for and when you will need that willpower the most.  A successful environment serves a purpose and makes it easier to follow through with changes that support your goals. So for instance, if you keep fresh fruits and vegetables readily available (like a fruit bowl on the counter, or precut raw veggies at eye level in the fridge) you are more likely to choose these for snacks rather than the ice cream you’d have to leave your house to pick up.
  2. Set up Cues-  Create cues or “triggers” that will remind you to take certain actions. So for example, laying out your workout clothes the night before where you will see them the next morning– this will help trigger you to exercise after you wake up. When repeated regularly, a cue-to-behavior relationship will become so second nature, that you won’t  need to “will” yourself to choose that behavior… it will just happen!
  3. Plan It Out!- When you know you will be facing a tempting or challenging situation, take action ahead of time and have a plan! So if you tend to “impulse” buy at the grocery store, maybe you should eat something beforehand so you are not hungry, or write out a grocery list, and STICK TO IT! Or let’s say you have dinner plans  at a restaurant… I’d suggest checking out the menu options ahead of time and decide what you will order before you even get to the restaurant. That way, your decision is already made! You don’t have to risk being influenced by the people you are with, the environment around you, or maybe even that pre-dinner glass of wine ;). Or lets say you will be attending a holiday party…. Rather than “saving your calories” all day for the feast, you should eat your meals that day as you normally would, and maybe even an appetite-curbing snack (such as a piece of fruit or handful of nuts) before the party so your hunger won’t get the best of you!
  4. Write It Out!- Writing out your goals and plans is powerful! While in our minds we may have good intentions, a plan in WRITING MAKES IT REAL! It holds us accountable to ourselves. Write down your long-term goals in a notebook, add your exercise plan, meals, etc. to a calendar/planner. Much like a commitment or “appointment” you would make with someone else, when you write it down there’s a much better chance you will actually follow through with your own goals, rather than blowing them off.

Take Action: Start with 1 change/goal you want to work on. How can you create your environment to set yourself up for success? What cue(s) can you put into place to trigger that behavior/change? What tempting or challenging situations will you face that could steer you off track, and what will be your game plan for these situations? And… Be sure to WRITE THIS ALL DOWN!  Please share! 


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