Community//

Why It’s A Mistake To Rely On Willpower

Why relying on your willpower is holding you back and what to do instead

If you’re wondering, “how do I strengthen my willpower?” you may be focusing on the wrong thing.

When you are trying to improve yourself in some way it can be hard to consistently make good choices.

Whether you are trying to eat healthier, exercise more, drink less alcohol, it’s likely that you will slip up. We believe that if we had stronger willpower then we would do better.

Why Willpower Isn’t Enough

You have a limited supply of willpower. It’s like the gas tank in your car. You start the day with a certain amount of willpower. And you deplete it with everydecision you make.

This is called decision fatigue.

What to eat. What to wear. How to get to work.

You quickly deplete your supply with all the small decisions you make. You make so many decision during the day that by the time you get home for dinner and you have to choose between cooking a piece of fish and vegetables or order a pizza, guess what you’re likely to choose?

You will make the choice that feels easiest to you. Of course. You are too tired from your very full day.

We’ve been led to believe that this is some sort of personal shortcoming and we make ourselves feel guilty. We wonder what’s wrong with us.

But you are not lazy. Your willpower gas tank has been depleted.

Strengthening your willpower is not the answer.

The Last 5 Pounds

After I had my son I would get these excruciating pains. Like worse than labor pains.

I had post pregnancy gallstones. I had no idea this was common thing.

I wanted to avoid surgery so I tried for two years to manage and heal it by being on a super strict diet. This worked for a while. Until it didn’t. My gallbladder was just too sick and I had to have the surgery.

Because I had been so restrictive for the past two years, to say I let loose after the surgery is an understatement. It was basically a Las Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet for about a year straight.

I gained 30 pounds. I didn’t recognize myself.

When I decided to let go of the self-loathing, I eventually got on track and I lost 25 pounds. I had a plan and I was focused. I felt great. It was around then that I started to feel comfortable. It was also the holidays. And things just got loosey-goosey.

I’ve been working on losing those last five for a long time. I’ve been relying on willpower.

It just doesn’t work.

How To Stop White Knuckling It

1. Know what you want

Having a clear picture of the outcome you desire will work as a guidepost for all your decisions. I want to feel amazing and fit in my body. Eating a bunch of sugar is not in alignment with that.

2. Make decisions in advance

Having a detailed plan is your roadmap. The plan needs to be decided in advance. For instance, if you decide what you are eating the day before, when it comes time for lunch, you don’t even have to think about it because you’ve already made the choice. You completely bypass decision fatigue.

3. Commit 100%

Commitment is your new fuel. When you make a commitment, it’s just what you’re doing. It’s not even a choice. It becomes who you are.

4. When you get off track, simply get back on

You don’t need to judge yourself. We all slip up. No one is perfect and that’s ok! We tend to turn our mistakes into a lot of drama about how terrible we are. As if punishing ourselves is going to be the thing that gets us back on track. But it’s not. The commitment is. So commit to being judgement-free. If there is anything you need to understand about why you got derailed, get your wisdom and move on.

Beating up on yourself for not sticking to what you want to do is not productive. So you gained a pound, ate a box of cookies, skipped exercise, had more wine than you wanted. You’ve been relying on your willpower which is unreliable. When you rely on your commitment and plan in advance, you will find that your goals are so much more doable.

What are your best strategies for sticking to your goals?

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

The One Muscle That Always Gets Ignored

by Karen Broda
Community//

7 Tips to Maximize Your Willpower

by Chris Acebu
Community//

Willpower Alone is Not Enough

by Erica Ferguson

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.