Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Don't waste your willpower


We all know about willpower. It’s that grit inside that gets us to do what we should when it’s not easy. But often our willpower is not up to the task. As Mae West quips, “I generally avoid temptation, unless I can’t resist it.”

No one denies that willpower is key when choosing a healthier lifestyle. But why can’t we just choose a plan of action and then do it? How do we strengthen our gumption? The answer - use willpower wisely.

Most of us tend to overestimate the strength of our willpower. We sit in front of the TV with a bag of potato chips and expect that with a new diet plan, we will stop at 50 calories. Yeah, right.

Science calls this misplaced hutzpah “restraint bias”. Although we might think
we can do it, when staring down our main attraction (chocolate, cookies, heroin -whatever) with willpower alone, nine times out of ten, we will fail. This waste of willpower over time creates a habit of failure.

Instead, use your willpower to prevent major confrontations with temptation in the first place:

- Use a grocery list and only buy what’s on it
- Don’t go to the grocery hungry
- Just say “no” to stopping for a beer after work and schedule a walk with a friend instead
- Take your lunch to work and put an apple on your desk
- Never have a cigarette in the house or in the car

Look for creative ways to use your gumption to avoid that duel on Main Street in the first place.

Using willpower wisely strengthens it so that when you do have to face temptation directly, you’ll be able to walk away with a smile as you create a habit of success.

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