“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.” – Vince Lombardi
There is often a very fine line between success and failure. Most people know how to achieve goals like losing weight, saving money, building a new career or even how to start a business. It is not the knowingthat is difficult as there are thousands of sources to guide you in the right direction. The challenge is willpower or self-determination.
It is believed, due to recent studies that willpower behaves like a muscle that fatigues with use. There was a research study that had two groups of people. One group had to perform multiple decision-making or challenging mental tasks and the other group enjoyed relaxation and entertainment. Both groups were asked to walk out of a long hallway to exit. Along the hallway there was a sign-out booth that offered healthy snacks like carrots, apples, celery sticks and nuts and unhealthy snacks like candy bars, chips, and cookies. The people who had relaxed and had fun were more likely to make a healthy selection than those who were just performing arduous tasks. Now I probably don’t have the exact details correct as I am retrieving this from memory but there have been multiple similar studies that have proven shown where people lack the ability to continuously make choices or exercise their will for long periods of time.
This same theory applies when you force yourself to perform tasks that you do not want to do. Say like, your job. If you really, really hate your job and you are constantly talking yourself off the ledge as you painstakingly go through the motions you must to remain employed you have likely sapped every ounce of willpower you own. So now after work, trying to implement a new habit like going to the gym, performing community work, cooking a healthy meal, or taking a class takes the will of god to make it happen.
Can you see how this theory also supports how happier people are more successful at achieving goals? They don’t spend all day sapping their willpower! Even if you don’t like your job by focusing on what benefits you gain from being there (friends, skill growth, money, short commute and more time at home, etc) can make all the difference on your health and willpower reserves.
So what can you do?
Here a few suggestions:
- If you live in a Daylights Saving Time area. Don’t fall back!! Instead get-up and OUT OF bed when your body wakes up normally. You will have a full hour to embark upon 3 twenty minute activities that feed your soul: exercise, personal growth or spiritual reading and meditation.
- Even if you don’t live in a time zone change, then consider doing the stuff that is important to you in the morning. Even if it is only 15-20 minutes heck even 5 minutes is better than zero and it can help boost your mood for the day!
- If you work ridiculously long hours, consider asking for one short day (nothing crazy just 3:30, 4:00 , etc..) per week for a “class.” You do not need to share what that class is for and you can make it what ever you want it to be, yoga, educational, meditation, gym, nutritional cooking, or craft. Most employers can understand one day a week and colleagues will start to schedule time with you outside of that day and time. The trick is you have to stick with it. If you are wishy-washy and don’t always leave early on that special day or you switch days it is hard for others to make it a habit to expect your scheduled absence or take it seriously.
- Don’t make it all or nothing. If you can’t handle running 2 miles or going to the gym for an hour, tell yourself 1/4 mile or 10 minutes. Once you are moving it is so easy to stay a little longer. If you do only exercise for 10 minutes that is still always better than doing nothing at all.
- To keep yourself from vices (shopping, ice-cream, cigarettes, etc) before you even embark upon your new goal clearly identify at least 2-3 things you could use to replace that vice. It could be an activity, a phone call to a friend, a new hobby, whatever but prepared before the craving attacks!
- Consistently perform happiness interventions like: using your strengths, spending time in positive relationships, practicing gratitude and appreciation, following your purpose, doing things that have meaning and wallowing in positive emotion.
The most sustaining trick (other than #6) I know is having your vision and feeling of your end result. Spend time daily, if not a few times a day, viewing your vision board or visualizing what will be different and how you will feel upon success. When a friend of mine lost 40 pounds this year, she said that her dream of fitting into a pair of skinny jeans with a jeweled belt buckle kept hope alive for her. Another friend said that returning each day to a job he despised and fantasizing how his new career would look and feel motivated him to get his degree. He advised, that in order to get something different, he knew he had to do something different.
- Schedule your new goal activities early before you use up all your willpower for the day
- Stay in tune with yourself, recognize when your reserves are low and steer away from temptation when you have already used up your willpower.
- My favorite: Remember happier people achieve more goals than less happy people and people who have goals are happier than those who do not.
So what are you going to do?