Ugh 46%! That was it. It wasn’t even lunch time and that was the pitiful number displayed on my cell phone reflecting remaining battery life. And of course, this would be the day I didn’t have access to a charger. In our instant access world, I’ll be honest – it made me a bit anxious. After all, how would it last for the rest of the day?
I did the familiar drill – I closed any apps that I knew were running. Then, I preceded to check if there was anything else running in the background in hopes of helping my battery make as long as possible. Do you know that drill too? Some days you know just the trick. Other days, we aren’t so lucky.
Over the weekend my old cell phone came to mind when I was pondering the concept willpower. I can’t help but think that sometimes I’ve felt a bit like that old cellphone battery. On any given day, I might wake up with the best intentions, fully charged, “game on” for whatever change I was pursuing. But by the end of the day, those same intentions were nothing but a vapor leaving me with zero resolve staring down infamous monster of emotional eating.
But your monster could be shopping, spending time online or any other vice that steps in where the desire for change once attempted to take root. I’d ask you if it were only me, but based on the conversations I’ve had with friends and family I know I’m not alone.
What causes us to spiral so quickly from “today is the day” to feeling helplessly off track by 7pm? We often blame our willpower. But are we using it as our scapegoat? Are we allowing ourselves to believe that somehow we could succeed if only we didn’t have insufficient willpower? I know I did for years. Maybe if we shift our perspective on it, we could build our resolve and impact our progress.
6 Empower Facts About Willpower:
1. Willpower is not a superpower.
We often say “if only I had more willpower.” We convince ourselves that it’s the key to the progress we desire. We’d lose the weight we’d want to, we’d save more money, we’d… fill in the blank. But having more willpower will not give you the strength of superman. It’s not a super power that you can simply tap into to conquer the world. We need to stop putting all of our hopes in to the one basket labelled “willpower” because if we think it’s our only hope for lasting change, we’ll miss other areas of strength and support. Let go of the notion that having stronger willpower is the secret to success.
2. Willpower is finite.
Did you know willpower depletion is a real thing? In fact a study by the American Psychological Association found that typically when someone emotional eats, they aren’t suffering as a result of their mood or emotions being out of control but rather their resolve has been challenged by people or situations which deplete the individual’s energy causing them to make choices that align with a lack of willpower. When we’re depleted, our choices may suffer. But just like my cell phone’s battery could be recharged, we can recharge our resolve through our choices.
3. Willpower can become fatigued.
Studies by the American Psychological Association have shown that our willpower can become strained, much like a muscle does with over use. If we regularly put ourselves in situations where we’re faced with temptation, our ability to resist it can diminish. If we’re trying to avoid eating the wrong foods, having those foods in our pantry will cause us to repeatedly need willpower to ignore it. But, if those same temptations aren’t in our house at all, the tension is greatly reduced. Be conscious of the areas where you struggle. How can you adapt your environment to avoid regular temptation that will deplete your resolve?
4. Willpower can be supported, increased and strengthened.
Just because you had that meltdown that ended with an innocent half of a pan of brownies as a casualty, doesn’t mean you’ve been diagnosed with “weak willpower” and can’t ever change. One of the best ways to strengthen your willpower is to build habits into your life that support your choices. If you struggle with spending too much time online or watching TV, give yourself a daily limit and make that your habit. Or, If you struggle with exercise, schedule which days you go to the gym before the week starts and let the habit drive your behavior. Maybe food is your challenge, your established habit could be planning your meals ahead or doing meal prep for the week on the weekend making sticking to your plan much easier on your busy weeknights. The more positive behaviors that you can set as habits, the easier the lift will be on your resolve to keep you on track.
5. Your willpower is impacted by your beliefs and values.
Positive attitude, mood and your beliefs impact your willpower. If you have struggled with your resolve, you can use your attitude and mood as your portable chargers. Engage in activities that reinforce your beliefs and values while nurturing your mood and emotional health. Don’t underestimate the power of your faith. Definitely don’t forget the obvious – pray for the strength you need. A positive attitude and belief system has been proven to diminish the impact of willpower depletion while helping to strengthen and restore it. If you feel your mood souring, be conscious of the impact that may have on your ability to resist temptations. When you adjust your attitude, your willpower will benefit.
6. The right motivation can overcome weak willpower.
Over the past year I have heard many motivational speakers talk about the “why.” Really get to the root of your why. If you’re trying to lose weight and need willpower to help, why do you want to lose the weight? If you’re struggling with an addiction or over spending, why do you want to change? Answer it truthfully to yourself. Don’t settle for the “surfacy” or “churchy” sounding answer. Really answer why. Keep your why close at hand for the moments you feel weak. If it helps, read your why at the times of day when you are most tempted. Researchers have found that people with depleted willpower but the right strong motivation can overcome temptation despite feeling vulnerable.
It’s time to stop letting weak willpower be the elephant in the room. Stop letting it stand in the middle of your desire to change or grow in an area of your life. Let go of using is as an excuse. Recognize when you’re depleted. Don’t rely on it to save the day but instead strengthen it by nurturing a positive attitude. And no matter what area of your life you struggle with, remember that God IS bigger!
The next time you catch yourself saying “if only I had more willpower” stop yourself, adjust, implement new positive habits, pray, and move forward. Be free to change and grow knowing you don’t need to be limited by your willpower, instead you can choose to be supported by it.
If this post encouraged you, I’d love to hear from you! Have you struggled with willpower in the past? And, has this post helped you look at it differently?
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