Willpower- A Superpower All of it’s Own!
Well how are you getting along with those resolutions? Got your CV sorted? Stopped smoking yet? Started that new spinning class you promised yourself? How about the excess weight has that started to shift? Oh and how about that nail biting? Resorted to dipping your fingertips in mustard yet?
If the answer to any of these is ‘no’, then perhaps you have a reason or maybe if truth be told an excuse as to why this is the case. As an aside a wise man (thanks Chris) once told me that there is no such thing as a ‘reasonable excuse’ think about it for a moment. Whichever it is, I am sure willpower has some part to play. Don’t give up though, just read on and then rethink and recalibrate, you can and will succeed.
If your answer is yes, then congratulations, keep up the good work, your stamina and efforts will begin to reward you with whatever benefit your were looking for. I am sure that willpower has played a big part in your progress and will continue to do so as you continue on.
Willpower is something that is often used as a reason or excuse as to why we do or don’t continue with something. Willpower is defined by The Psychology Help Centre as the “ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. “ I quite like this definition as is uses provocative words like ‘resist’ and ‘temptation’ in conjunction will ‘goal setting’. A recent book called the Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters addresses your inner chimp, a side of you that hinders resistance and temptation and can wither and progress you make in terms of your willpower. Check it out it is a brilliant book.
Break the Habit, Silence the Voices.
If we are faced with the choice of eating a box of chocolates, tucking into a piece of cheese or lighting up a cigarette it can be down to an emotional need disguised as a little voice telling us it is OK to do it. “Go on, one won’t do any harm, you can always try again tomorrow.” Willpower is about putting that voice into a box and locking it tight. Of course the little voice has help and can unlock that box and start calling to you again at the most inopportune times, but your willpower is the padlock and key to shut it up.
According to an article from the 2012 Guardian “Willpower is a mental muscle that you can train. Those who do so are more likely to lead happy and successful lives.” That is a big generalization as there is an argument that a lack of willpower can have correlation with decision making especially in risky situations where a quick decision is required to move something along and the willpower to not respond can hinder and slow down processes. Does that mean that these people are not leading a happy life? This statement assumes that the presence of willpower is only to be found in happy and successful people. Not sure about that one. However training willpower is something to investigate, and especially when focused in a certain area. An example of this would when using Mindfulness meditation. When people embark on their first journeys into Mindfulness it can seem somewhat kooky and their attention can often wander, but, with practiced willpower they can find themselves in a meditative state for longer, each time enjoying the benefits of being ‘present’. It is this focus that we need in order to nurture and develop our willpower.
The thing with willpower is each of us only has so much of it, there have been many experiments using subjects with marshmallows to test levels of willpower blended with reward mechanisms to help improve it, you can find these on YouTube. If we have only a limited about of this rare substance how can we develop it?
Self Control -Do Not Push the Button!
The relationship between you and your willpower has a lot to do with another ingredient. Self Control. There are times when emotions can affect the way we feel increasing or decreasing our ability to control ourselves. Get into an argument with a loved one, and then you might reach for a drink or a cigarette to calm your nerves. If you feel lonely or have had a bad day at work you might reach for comfort food, or simpler still it could be raining out, and you think I will just stay in and not bother going to the gym. I can do it tomorrow. Oh well no harm done, just a little erosion of the old willpower there!
Well the thing is there is always tomorrow, but today is right now and right now is when you should make the best efforts to make a change that can eventually lead to an increase your willpower, which really is about developing a habit.
Willpower, Habits and Routines.
A habit is defined as “a routine or behaviour that is repeated regularly and tend to occur unconsciously.” If we examine the how habits are formed or broken and the relationship with willpower we can see how our own behaviours can change or be adapted. If we can somehow use some great techniques such as Mindfulness we can improve our willpower and therefore help to create to new habits that will set us free to achieve new goals, such as fitness, nutrition or even to make a better or more considered choice.
In my job as a trainer I am fortunate to meet some amazing people, these people allow me into their lives for a short period of time within which they are looking for a change or improvement to happen. This could be to learn a new skill in management, to improve their sales effectiveness or to be coached on a personal or professional issue that needs redressing in some way. When I am with these people it is vital as a starting point to establish something that is often forgotten. Do they actually want to change? Do they actually want to improve? Do they actually want the goal to be achieved? They will almost always say yes, but when you examine why they truly want it you can uncover a motivation, and it is this motivation that can be used to encourage and create willpower to create the habit that helps to achieve the goal. Mathy people might use a model like this.
Goal = (Reason + Motivation x Willpower) = Habit
Making it happen. Creating the Superpower!
When people start a New Years Resolution such as losing weight, they often start by looking at the reasons why they have not succeeded in the past, this then create a self fulfilling prophecy for them to not succeed and therefore more often than not they don’t. It is more constructive to look at the motivation for wanting to do it in the first place and the outcome it will deliver. This outcome needs to broken into small chunks and little wins. These help to reinforce positive behaviour and create new habits. So in the case of weight loss a self-instruction for each day, recorded in a journal, bought specially for the purpose. “Today I am going to eat the following food, exercise in following way. I am not going to eat XXXX type of food today or carry on doing what I have doe before XXXX and here is my evidence to show how I have done.” I can testify to this evidence and recording method as I chose to lose about three stone in weight, it took about 18months but each day I recorded what I did and created new behaviours, new habits and increased willpower until I reached my goal. Then it was about refining these goals to help maintain.
If I am presented with a sales person who wants to improve then again it is about the relationship with their overall activity, (number of phone calls) their productivity (number of times they get to present or pitch) and their efficiency (how many times they actually sell). These three little pieces of information, strung together with an overall motivation (keeping their job, earning commission, career progression plan) makes the new habits easier to create and therefore improves their willpower.
If a person is struggling with time management and personal effectiveness then it is about addressing the balance between the types of task they are currently working on and tapping into their most effective working patterns, so that each task can be worked on in a specific way to create that sense of achievement and completion rather than the bad habit of procrastination.
Of course, many counselors or therapists might say that people who struggle with bigger issues like addiction and dependency for example might find this too simplistic, but isn’t the 12 step programme by the AA just a series of small goals?
Having the support and love of people around you, to encourage your activity and reward and recognize your efforts is very important. Remember with things like weight loss, the people closest to us do not notice the changes as people who see us less often do. Be prepared for this and do not give up, remember that changes that go on in the first few weeks can be internal like the loss of internal visceral fat that does not overly affect our appearance, but inside it is working miracles! So don’t give up, keep going you are truly going to be delighted with the results.
If you are trying to give up smoking going cold turkey is a sure way to fail, but even a drop of one cigarette a day can make a difference when gradually increments are made. Your senses will improve and your life expectancy, you know this and you know how much money you will save too. Try putting what you spend on cigarettes away for something special and reap the benefits, oh and start by calling yourself an ex smoker not someone trying to give up. The former is a stronger outcome based statement, so use it and be proud of it.
If you are looking to change jobs, then start to make your CV really work on selling your achievements, not just your responsibilities, then get your CV to agencies and to employers who could value your skills, prepare for interviews and learn to sell yourself in terms of value. Don’t suffer anymore in a job you hate or is not rewarding you, remember you own your own career, not your employer. You are a valuable commodity and deserve a great career.
The Best Outcome- Willpower- Your New Super Power!
Whatever you are looking to achieve in this year you can do it, you will do it and you will look back knowing you made a series of small changes that created new habits contributing to a massive difference, because you chose to, using your new super power skills in developing new habits and willpower for yourself. Then you can pass them onto others like your own personal echo, helping them to improve, just like you did and will continue to do. You might not have a cape and a mask with your new super power, but it will bloody well feel like you have, so go ahead and fly.
This blog forms part of corrective coaching and training delivered by me Simon Hares SerialTrainer7. If you would like help or guidance to improve your own willpower then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, call me on 07979 537824 or use the form below. Thanks for reading and see you soon.