‘I know what to do, but I just can’t do it!’
If I had £1 for every time I’ve heard that sentence, I would be on the beach in Australia right now.
Why do we struggle so much to do what we know we need to do to get the results we really want?
Why is it that we can eat healthy all day, but cave in to an entire bag of ‘sharing’ chocolate and a bottle of wine before we go to bed?
Why do we go out to dinner with the best intentions to pick the grilled chicken with salad, but end up with a burger and chips?
Why do we go and get drunk after a bad day when we know we’ll feel like death and eat crap all day tomorrow?
In this article I’ll explain what it is that causes many people to sabotage themselves, and show you how you can develop the will-POWER to finally achieve your goals.
What is willpower?
Willpower is defined as ‘the unwavering strength of will to carry out one’s wishes’.
It’s what keeps you making good choices when faced with decisions that could impact your goal.
If you know the choices you need to make, but struggle to make them consistently, you may need to look deeper into your mindset.
As human beings, everything we do is born out of a deep rooted desire to avoid pain and experience pleasure.
We all have different associations with what will give us pain, and what will bring pleasure.
This is a key point.
How do you view healthy foods vs your favourite unhealthy foods?
When people think of healthy foods and ‘trying to lose weight’ they often come up with images of boring salads, tiny portions, and munching on carrot sticks while their friends tuck into delicious-looking cakes and biscuits.
When I asked one of my clients, who struggles to control the amount of chocolate she eats, to describe what she thinks of when focused on chocolate, her eyes glazed over and a dreamy look appeared on her face. We had words such as warmth, happiness, a big hug, comfort, tastes amazing, and makes you feel good.
Other people may get this same feeling from wine or other indulgent food and drink.
With those subconscious associations, it’s no wonder that many people are instinctively drawn to the pleasure of chocolate and wine when they’re tired or they’ve had a bad day.
Our desire to experience pleasure rather than pain comes from the strongest and most primitive part of our brain, and it has the power to override all conscious thinking.
If you link pleasure to your unhealthy habits, and pain to all the good habits you need to form, you’ll never be consistent enough to achieve the results you want.
So what can you do about this?
You need to change what you link pain and pleasure to.
Pain can become your friend if you start to link it strongly to all the things you no longer want to experience in your life.
- Feeling fat
- Hiding your body under frumpy clothes
- Lacking confidence
- Feeling tired and miserable
- Struggling to chase around after your kids
- Poor health
- No longer fitting into your favourite pair of jeans
This may already be your present, but do you want it for your future?
If you connect to this pain and realise you simply cannot tolerate it any more, you’ve reached your pain threshold. And that can be a really good thing. It’s when you get to this point that you are driven to take new action and produce new, life-enhancing results.
Next, you need to start linking immense pleasure to all the great things you’re going to experience as you work towards and achieve your goal.
- Feeling slim and attractive
- Wearing clothes that show off your figure and being inundated with compliments
- Feeling confident and on top of the world
- Brimming with energy and vitality
- Laughing, playing and running with your kids
- Noticing how much healthier your body has become
- Buying a new pair of jeans in a smaller size, trying them on and finding they fit perfectly
You know the bad habits that keep you overweight and unhappy. Feel the pain they cause you.
And you know the good habits you need to cultivate to feel slim, confident, happy and proud. Link as much pleasure as you can to all these habits. View them in light of all the great things they will do for you. See yourself doing them, enjoying them, and living the life you want.
Healthy foods can taste amazing. Exercise can be fun and rewarding. Limiting unhealthy foods, getting to bed on time, drinking enough water and being organised can all make you feel a million times better about yourself.
Notice the associations you currently have with what gives you pain and what creates pleasure, and if they don’t work for you, change them!
Make it easy for yourself.
Willpower is not an unlimited resource.
We only get a certain amount of it each day. And it gets drained every time you are faced with a decision, be that what to have for breakfast, what clothes you’re going to wear, whether or not to have the donut you’re being offered, and what to feed the kids for tea.
You can help yourself A LOT by being organised and planning as much in advance as you can.
We are often faced with way more decisions and mental activities than we can cope with in a day. By the end of it, when faced with that king sized bar of chocolate calling to us at the shop, there’s very little willpower left to resist it.
So, plan ahead. Successful people run their lives with planning and precision.
Remove all unnecessary decisions from your day so you preserve as much willpower as possible.
Here’s some ideas that might help:
- If you’re going to the gym after work, get all your gym kit ready the night before and leave it by the door.
- Make your lunch for the next day before you go to bed.
- Plan the meals you’re going to have for the week and shop for it all at the weekend.
- Cook up a batch of meals at the weekend to use them for lunch and dinner.
- Have an emergency healthy meal in the freezer that you can just bung in the oven or microwave if you get home late and are too tired to cook.
- Decide that you no longer eat biscuits as you’d prefer to save the calories, so your automatic reaction is always an easy ‘no thank you’ whenever anybody offers you one
- Decide you only drink at the weekend
- Establish a routine before bedtime so you and your body know when to wind down each night
- Don’t watch TV after 10pm – if somethings on after that time that you really want to watch, record it
- Don’t keep food or drink in the house that you know you’ll over-indulge on after a tough day
- If others in your household ‘must’ have unhealthy foods that you get tempted by, ask them to keep it out of your sight
- If you want to get ‘treats’ for your kids, buy them something that they like but you aren’t as keen on
- Have all your (and your family’s) food planned out for the day and if you
need to buy any ingredients, buy them early when willpower is still strong
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If you have any questions just leave me a comment or send me a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hayley Plummer ~ Personal Trainer and Female Fat Loss Coach, Sussex