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The Relationship Between Willpower and Habits

It’s hard to keep up willpower for any length of time. Yes, we can stick to a low-fat 1,000 calorie diet and go hungry for a week or two, but eventually our willpower fades.  Having such restrictions isn't sustainable. And yes, we can do exercises we hate for a while... until we run out of willpower to continue. 

But what about getting up and brushing our teeth or going to work every day?  Those may not be our favorite things to do either, but we do them daily without the risk of running out of willpower. We unconsciously know they're just part of our daily routine. They've become habits. They are so ingrained in what we do and who we are that we do them without even considering skipping a day or a week. It's not even a question.  It’s just what we do – it's a habit.

When you start to think about it, there is an inverse relationship between habits and willpower. When you first want to create a new habit, it takes a whole lot of willpower to get it done day in and day out....but as you begin to establish this new habit, it becomes easier and easier to do it until you don’t even think about it anymore. 

Something I've learned over time is that habits should be sustainable.  They aren't crash diets or workout routines we hate.  They are healthy lifestyles, self-improvement goals, daily meditations, regular exercise routines we actually enjoy, going to bed at a decent hour etc.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel with creating healthy habits. It's been proven that the longer we can continue to sustain positive lifestyle habits, the easier it becomes to grab some fruit or fix some eggs for breakfast instead of stopping by McDonald's for an Egg McMuffin...Your positive new lifestyle choices make that McDonalds sandwich unappealing because of all your efforts to stay on track.  If your someone who craves something like this, that's when your willpower needs to come in and say NO! 

There is definitely a relationship between willpower and habit.  In order to create new habits, you need to find the willpower to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And thankfully, there are some tools to make this transition easier:  

  • Use a to-do list or set a reminder to help stay on track

  • Find an accountability partner so the two of you can motivate each other when your initial enthusiasm starts to wear off 

  • Lay out your workout clothes the night before and keep your sneakers by the door to keep you motivated and inspired 

  • Leave post-it notes on the fridge or on your cabinets to stop yourself from eating junk at night 

  • Download a steps counter on your phone so you can try to beat your daily goals.  (I have an apple watch and it's my favorite feature) 

It all comes down to doing what you can to help your willpower along until you've made the new behavior a true habit. And the best part of all is you’ve now got a new lifelong habit.

Pat yourself on the back! Take the bull by the horns! You can do this. 

Happy Spring! 

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