Why Willpower Doesn’t Work

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One of the many reasons why clients don’t return to my office is the belief that they simply need to improve their willpower on their own, in order to apply my suggested strategies. In this article I want to explain why relying on willpower is futile, and how to make the most of what decision making power we do have. 

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Source: http://www.picturequotes.com/diet-willpower-quote-1-picture-quote-618872
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Source: http://quotepixel.com/picture/success/dan_millman/willpower_is_the_key_to_success_successful_people
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Source: http://www.searchquotes.com/quotes/about/Willpower/

No no no no no. This is not helpful! 

Willpower by definition:

control of one’s impulses and actions; self-control.

I would relate willpower to the idea that one is able to make decisions which serve their ultimate goals. There is a relationship between willpower and decisions.

Willpower does not come in endless quantities, and you cannot “will” yourself anymore of it. You see, willpower is indeed like a muscle, and muscles as they are exercised, get fatigued, no matter the kind of movements you decide to do. You can do pushups, bicep curls or any other movement which utilizes the bicep; eventually your biceps get tired.

Same idea rings true to willpower. We use willpower with every little decision we make every day, no matter the decision. Even those as small as choosing what to wear, what to eat for breakfast or wether or not to start the car. Small decisions impact your willower for the important decisions.

It’s important to know you are not alone.

Most of us run out of willpower by the end of the day. We become more open to snacking on treats, overeating, and less likely to have the will to work on our side businesses. Those posters on willpower fuel a sense of inadequacy since they insinuate you should draw from your everlasting pool!

Judges are more likely to give favourable hearings at the beginning of the day, and directly after a food break than late morning or afternoon (source).  The mental work of ruling on case after case, wore them down. Decision fatigue can also make football players and CEO’s alike make poor choices late in the game.

Decision Fatigue

I summarize decision fatigue as: how decision making quality decreases after a long period of decision making. For many of us, the decisions which drain our willpower are the ones we make over and over (such as the mundane decisions you make in the morning time).

How do we respond when willpower is exhausted? 

  1. Our brains will start to make shortcuts.
    – “Sure go for it! Take the donut, buy the t-shirt, send the email!”
  2. We respond by making no decision.
    – “I’ll stay at home instead of going for a walk, I’ll order food instead of getting groceries.”

So how can we utilize this information to our advantage and strategically plan to optimize our decision making?

  1. Start your day with your priority.
    – Go to the gym, start meal prepping for dinner, read, meditate, write etc.
  2. Stop making decisions and start making commitments (rest your willpower).
    – Schedule in meal prep on Mondays and Thursdays and attending the gym Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays (use your Feel Good Master Plan)  Take the option (decision) out of your day to NOT do these activities.
  3. Simplify and automate as much as possible.
    – Intentionally automate the small things to save your willpower and decision muscle energy for the bigger things.
    – Make the same options for breakfasts and lunches, pack them the night before to save time in the morning for #1. Make the hour before bed time planning the next day.
    – Wear the same black turtleneck and jeans everyday.
  4. Eat before jumping back into the decision making process (it worked to improve the judges ability to make decisions).

So to summarize, relying on willpower an unfair idea. No one built their empire from willpower alone, that’s an oversimplification. Prioritizing, commitment and simplifying are tools we can use over and over to achieve our goals.

Rebecca

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