Willpower. What is it? And why do some people seem to have loads of it, and some cave in at the very first sight of a square of chocolate?
noun: willpower; noun: will power
1 control exerted to do something or restrain impulses.
This is a topic which I have been interested in for a while, especially with my interests and field of business in which I operate. Clients are constantly asking me ‘How do you have so much willpower?’ or commenting ‘If I had any willpower I would be doing great.’ So do we all have the same amount of willpower? Can we train ourselves to have more willpower?
I started reading a book on holiday called ‘The Marshmallow Test’ by Walter Mischel. He is a researcher in America who conducted the famous experiment with children to test their willpower when it came to being giving treats. In brief, children were given the choice of having one marshmallow immediately, or they could wait a certain amount of time and they would be given two. The marshmallow was placed on the table in front of them, and the experiment looks at all the different ways in which the children tried to avoid eating it. Some could last, but others gave in straight away.
The book then looks at what became of these children. Did their willpower in regards to taking the marshmallows, have any correlation with certain traits later on in life. Interestingly it did. Those which were able to demonstrate higher levels of willpower and wait for the two marshamllaows, in general were more successful as they grew up. They were less likely to suffer from addictions, had better jobs, relationships and were happier.
This isn’t the original experiment, but is the same concept. I love seeing how the children think of ways not to eat the marshmallow. From shutting their eyes so they cant see it, to smelling it, some put it right up to their mouths and then put it back!
Okay, I will stop talking about marshmallows now and look at how we can relate it to health and fitness.
According to some research, willpower is a resource which gradually drains throughout the day and then gets replenished at night. When we are faced with stressful situations, and lots of decision making, people use up their willpower little by little as the day goes on. So as we go about our day making these tough decisions our willpower and self control will become less and less, to the point where we just completely give in. Ransacking the cupboards and fridge on an evening ring any warning bells?
What can we do to change this?
Try and make life as easy as possible.
I am going to relate this to fat loss, but it can be done for any situation in which you think you suffer from lack of willpower.
Morning willpower = 100%
You hate getting up in a morning to do exercise, the idea of going for a run is like hell, after snoozing the alarm 5 times; you drag yourself out of bed on a morning, wrap up and go for that run which you promised yourself you would do. -20% willpower points
When you get to work, your colleague asks if you want a McDonalds breakfast as he is getting one. You do want one. But you have some cold hard boiled eggs which make you gag instead. -20% willpower points
You have a bar of chocolate in your top drawer for emergencies. It is calling your name. But you resist. You know you shouldnt. -10% willpower points
Lunchtime comes around, your other half rings up to see if you want to meet for lunch at the cafe down the road. They do amazing macaroni and cheese. You are tempted, but you prepared your lunch last night and are looking forward to that instead, even though it would have been nice to see him. – 10% willpower points
It’s sometime. You said you would meet Becky at the gym. You promised her. But it is freezing outside, it is dark, and all you want to do is go home and sit in front of the fire. Your willpower is beginning to wane. However, you have to drive past the gym on the way home so get yourself there and feel much better for it. – 15% willpower points
By this point your willpower is beginning dry up. The smell of the local fish and chip shop is making you go doolally. It is all you can think about. You’re allowed one cheat meal right? No, no, no. You have done so well all day. You can do this. Even if Fish and Chips is your favourite. Chicken and soggy broccoli will do. -25% willpower points.
Your other half comes home with a bottle of wine. That’s it. You cant do it anymore. One glass wont hurt. Oops one glass turned into half a bottle. May as well crack open those chocolates now as well….
Can you see how much willpower this example has had to use up throughout the day? So that when she gets home, she is absolutely drained. Her willpower is gone, and that glass of wine was too tempting.
So what can you do to stop this?
You need to have less decision making. Make life easier for yourself.
Find an exercise that you do enjoy. Don’t like getting up on a morning to run? Then don’t. Would you prefer catching up with a friend at a zumba class? Do that instead.
Find and cook healthy foods which you look forward too and enjoy the taste of. This way you aren’t tempted by a McDonalds breakfast or a takeaway at the end of the day.
Don’t surround yourself with things which you don’t want to have. If you are trying to cut down on eating chocolate, biscuits, sweets etc. Don’t buy it. Don’t have them in the cupboards, or at least don’t have them on show. Hide them away. This way your willpower isn’t tested overtime you walk past them and think about having one. It is going to take a lot more effort to go out and drive to the shops to pick up that bag of crisps which you are craving, rather than walking to the kitchen cupboard.
Do you get peckish and hungry when you are bored? Distract yourself. Go out for a walk. Get into a good book. Meet up with friends. If you know this happens to you, then have a plan!
Do you want instant gratification now or that greater sense of achievement when you have reached your goal at some point in the future?
Hopefully this one makes sense to you. It is a really fascinating topic, and one which I have only scraped the surface with. If you are interested I would recommend picking up the book and having a read yourself.
Thank you for taking the time to visit my site and read this blog. I appreciate it. Leave a comment down below if you have any questions or feedback!
Love Abi xxxx
January Blog a Day 17/31