Let’s face it: January is winding down, and with it, your resolve as far as those resolutions that you were oh-so-excited about not three weeks ago. So, as February approaches and you find yourself struggling to keep your discipline in check, there’s never been a better time than now to employ the help of some willpower-hacking tricks that will keep your resolution-achieving momentum going strong well into 2019 (ie. well after January). Here, we offer a few of our foolproof tips when it comes to keeping your willpower strong, no matter what bumps you might hit in the road.
Recognize that willpower is a limited resource.
The fact that willpower isn’t something physical or tangible that we can measure out often leaves us with the mistaken feeling that it is essentially infinite. That’s not exactly the case, though. In fact, willpower is a finite resource of the body’s, much like energy or brain power. To that end, while there are ways to build up your willpower or train yourself to use it more efficiently (more on that in just a second), it’s important to understand that willpower can be exhausted and that it’s thus important to be mindful of its potential depletion as you go about setting and achieving your goals.
Limit unnecessary decisions by planning ahead.
In that same vein, knowing that willpower exists as something of a reservoir in your body means that you should find ways to be smarter about how you use your willpower. More specifically, you should try to avoid wasting your willpower on making decisions that can be made ahead of time so that you can save your willpower for the tougher decisions that can’t necessarily be made early on. Let’s say, for example, that one of your resolutions is to exercise more (as is the case for most of us, let’s be honest). As far as exercising goes, there are a few decisions that might go into the mix. What kind of workout will you do? What days of the week are you going to go? What time are you going to go? Now, when you think about it, these are all things that you can plan ahead of time. Spending your Sunday mapping out your workout schedule for the week, for example, will help make sure that all of these questions are answered before the week even starts, which means
Exercise your willpower like a muscle.
Okay, again, because your willpower is more like an abstract feeling and not something that you can really see and touch, the idea of working it out like a muscle may seem a little farfetched. But here’s the deal: willpower, like brainpower, is something that you can train to perform more effectively over time. One issue here, though, is that a lot of things that typically get categorized as ways to train and strengthen your willpower – eg. exercising – are also things that we often need a healthy dose of strong willpower to achieve in the first place. To get around this, you can focus on incorporating smaller exercises of willpower into your day, each of which will ultimately make the larger exercises of willpower – eg. again, exercising – easier to stick to. For this, think about things like pushing yourself to take the stairs at work instead of using the elevator, or limiting yourself to one cup of coffee per day. Basically, the key is to find little exercises that feel like small daily challenges; challenges that can stir up a little excitement when you accomplish them and that essentially act as a way to test your willpower on a regular basis.
Be realistic about your goals.
This one is something of a no-brainer, but it’s important to stress nevertheless. As far as keeping your willpower strong goes, one of the biggest contributing factors is actually seeing success. In other words, it’s pretty hard to keep your willpower high if you’re not seeing any progress. As an extension of that, it’s pretty hard to see any progress if you’re not really being realistic with the goals that you’re setting. So, the idea is simple: focus on setting goals that you can actually achieve. This means limiting the number of goals that you’re focusing on at once (if you’re trying to hit too many milestones at once, it becomes way too easy to lose your focus and see your willpower dwindle as a result) and understanding what is actually attainable given different factors in your life (if you’re going from working out zero days a week to trying to workout seven days a week, you’re not exactly setting yourself up for success).