All of us struggle from time to time to work up the willpower to do what we know we ought to do. Maybe you struggle with procrastination, tardiness, or you just can’t stop binging on Netflix. (Guilty, guilty, and guilty!) We know we need to workout, but sometimes it’s tough to carve out the time. There are so many other things we could be doing! Is binge-watching Netflix your problem? What about eating right, going to bed at a reasonable time, or getting that project done on time? (Oh, those are just a few of my struggles.) Whatever your willpower challenges, we’re going to address them today. I’m sharing tips to help you boost your willpower and a few of the tricks that work for me.
1. Think Big Picture Goals
Sometimes I can hijack a tempting situation by simply reminding myself that I will feel regret later. Remember the old, “the pain of discipline is always less than the pain of regret” speech we gave our kids when they were growing up? Or how about this one: “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” Seriously? That said, it does help to have a goal in mind and keep it front and center in your mind. My latest motivation? Bob and I are taking a cruise to Alaska this summer, and we signed up for a strenuous glacier hike excursion. We’re in pretty good shape, but living here in flat Dallas, we do not hike. I’m so terrified I will embarrass myself or be the one that everyone has to help, it’s motivating me to up the incline on my treadmill and work harder on my wall sits. 🙂
2. Limit Access to Temptation
Can’t stop binging a series on Netflix or Hulu? Let that iPad run out of juice. Can’t resist ice cream? Don’t bring it home. I don’t know about you, but I live under the distinctly false impression that I have waaaay more self-control than I really have.
3. Reflect and Refocus
Sometimes, all it takes is to ask myself, “What am I about to do and why am I about to do it?” It helps to identify my craving or temptation as a feeling. It doesn’t define me, and there’s nothing that requires me to pay attention to it or obey it. Another trick I use is to stop and set a timer on my phone for 15 minutes whenever I get a craving and then mentally set it aside. Often, when the timer goes off, I find the desire has dramatically diminished because my mind is elsewhere and I’m able to resist the temptation.
4. Make it Difficult to Succumb
I recently heard about a book by Natasha Dow Schull, called Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas. In it, Schull explains that casinos purposefully put in curved aisles instead of putting them at right angles because angles cause our brain to intervene with a decision about which way to turn. As you can imagine, casino owners do not want to do anything to interrupt gamblers’ impulsive behavior.
What’s the takeaway for us? I think we need to build in those “right angles” to more effectively tap into our willpower. For instance, if eating one Frito means you will eat the entire bag (Been there. Done that.), instead of bringing the bag with you to the kitchen table, put an appropriate serving of Fritoes® on your plate, and limit yourself to that serving. Appropriating the “right angle” theory into this struggle means that to get more Fritoes® will involve getting up, walking across the kitchen and retrieving the bag. This actually might be enough to stop us from overindulging. (Let’s be real, we’re all pretty lazy. Put this to work for you!)
How do we apply this to something like binge-watching? Decide before you even start how long you are going to watch and then set the kitchen timer or an alarm clock in the other room so that you would have to get up from your chair/couch/bed to turn it off. (And do your best to ensure you have to make a right angle turn to do it!)
How do you handle temptation and boost your willpower? I’d love to know. Leave me a comment and share the wisdom, okay?
Photos by Megan Weaver.
P.S. The tank top I’m wearing in the image at the top of this post says, “Everything hurts and I’m dying,” which is pretty much how I feel everytime I work out! I don’t like to spend a lot on my workout clothes so the top is $16.15 and my Target leggings are less than $20. The leggings incorporate the latest trend in activewear: sheer inserts (or cutouts). The black side panel is sheer, which actually helps keep me cool when I’m running.