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Willpower is weak

Willpower is weak, few successful people rely on willpower in the long term for success. Sure willpower is like a muscle, we always get that analogy. So let’s take that analogy to its logical conclusion.

To get stronger or more powerful we need to work the muscle, we need to work it hard enough to introduce tiny little failures in it. Then we need to leave it alone for a period of time so that it can recover and improve.

If we work it too hard, it will break big time and not improve as it recovers. Also we’ll have had to wait a long time for it to recover so we can use it again. If we don’t allow it enough time to recover, over time it will not be able to restore itself to even its starting level of strength.

The same is true of willpower. If we exercise it to a certain degree everyday and don’t overly rely upon it, it will get stronger. If we try to overly rely on it… it may work for a short spell but invariably we end up gorging on Jaffa cakes, vegged out on the sofa watching a Game of Thrones marathon (or is that just me?).

Let’s say you only get 50 units of effort to spend per day, with the extra rule that you aren’t allowed to carry any over to the next day. You spend 10 before you even get out of the house, sorting the kids, tidying the house and dealing with general home admin. You can easily spend 20-30 units at work and then you get home again. You make food for the family, sort out those payments for Scouts, swimming lessons, electricity, etc, then you remember it’s your sisters birthday in 3 days! You still need to get to the gym, but you’ve already spent 49 units and decide to spend that last 1 unit to walk over to the fridge and take out that bottle of cider…

Veg Cat doesn’t care that Winter is Coming…


Willpower builds habits

You can use willpower to build small habits over time. Habits are a structural part of you, like fastening your seat belt, brushing your teeth or washing your hands after going to the toilet (you do do that, don’t you?). Once something is a habit it uses considerably less willpower to use than it did to build.

Health habits are things that slowly build the following as structural parts of your life:

  1. Hygiene
  2. Sufficient sleep
  3. A balanced diet
  4. Enough movement

That’s about it really, the degree and amount of each of those are negotiable but the need for them are not.

Personal admin habits (reduce stress!):

  • Shopping lists
  • To do lists
  • Diaries (always have your eye one or two weeks ahead and add things to your lists as needed)
  • Never leave the supermarket with less than half a tank of fuel (plan for emergencies)
  • If it can be done now in less than 2 minutes, do it now (don’t procrastinate)

There are thousands of potential personal admin habits, but the most powerful ones are lists. Lists remove ‘thought and responsibility’ freeing you to do what you need to be doing in the moment (so long as you have built the habit to act on what is on your list!).

In the long term willpower is weak and habits are strong, but you need the first to build the second. Building good habits will increase the amount of ‘spare willpower’ you have available with which you can build even more habits. If you can create this pattern, you will have an upwards spiral of awesomeness and be able to achieve, almost, anything you put your mind do.

So what habit will you start building today?