Finding (and Keeping) the Mysterious Mr. Will Power, Pt 2/2

Yaay! You came back! With my yammering on about willpower yesterday, I was afraid you’d all go looking for sales on shoe laces. :)

Awesome, awesome comments yesterday! Whether you’ve found your path to willpower, are almost there, or are tippy-toeing along enjoying the view, your input is truly appreciated. Not to mention, oh-so-very-necessary. As we’ve long established in this community, what works for one doesn’t always work for another. Seeing a variety of perspectives in one place is always helpful.

With that said, what follows is what worked for ME in moving from the perception of willpower as self-denial to a more successful viewpoint of willpower as self-control. If it reads like a bunch of hooey to you, that’s fair enough. But if you’re struggling and looking for a new approach to unleashing your willpower, I hope you’ll give some or all of these actions a try:

1. Commit to doing something. Anything. Too often we get so caught up in contemplating our situation that we never get around to acting on it. Maybe we’re a little scared of failing, or maybe we’re hesitant about what might be the best way to proceed, or maybe it’s something else entirely. Whatever the stumbling block, we spend our time thinking and not doing. So the first thing we need to do to even have a need for willpower is to commit to doing something. We can always tweak it as we go along.

2. Be realistic. I’ll also toss in ‘be honest’ with this one. I’ve rambled on and on here about the need for reasonable, actionable goals, so I’ll save you the repetition. If we’re looking to change the way we think, eat, and move, we need to have a realistic and honest view of how we live our lives. Some things we might want to change within a specific time will require miracles, not just willpower. As a small example, if you have an hour a day of “spare time”, three days a week, then it’s going to be difficult to achieve a goal of six one-hour workouts each week. Why not set a goal of 45-60 minute workouts 3 days a week, and do that consistently until life presents you with more free time? (Oh, and honesty comes into play here if you’re lumping tv watching or naps into the time outside “spare time.”)

3. Put on your positivity glasses. As I wrote yesterday, I had a lot of spinning-wheel years operating under the belief that willpower meant self-denial (can’t have this, have to do that), and that didn’t work so well for me. My focus was on what I was giving up, not what I was getting. Duh. As I began to see and feel the changes in my body, I was able to shift my view of this endeavor as a series of exchanges: By replacing the majority of the unhealthy foods I was eating with more wholesome, nutritious fare, and spending more time moving and less time sitting, I would gain more energy and a more positive experience. That allowed for a wee bit of wiggle room for splurges, as needed, but kept the major focus on the positive results of a healthier lifestyle. It’s what still keeps me “returning to center.”

4.Expect problems. I’m not saying that we should go looking for trouble, but life does love to throw us curve balls. Knowing that they’ll occur and having a back-up, or even a “muddle-through”, plan will go a long way to ensuring that you’ll get right back on track. Headed to a family reunion? Rehearse your answers to Aunt Mabel, who insists that you have another one of her award-winning quaudruple-chocolate muffins. Got a run planned for tomorrow a.m.? Decide today what you’ll do if an early morning thunderstorm washes out those plans. Expecting roadblocks and having strategies in place to plow through them will limit the number of detours you take and increase your confidence in your abilities.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Way back in 1915, psychologist Edward Boyd Barrett suggested a series of will-building exercises (p.165) that on the surface seem trivial (e.g. to write “I will train my will” 50 times, to count and recount the same ten items for five minutes, etc.) but when practiced with consistency, strengthen our will and enable us to successfully take on more difficult challenges. (Note: I’m still reading this book, which is available in PDF or ebook format at no cost from Google in the link above, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.) The idea is to start small and grow.

6. Keep it up! Momentum is a powerful force, and you’ll find your confidence growing as you pile up the successes in building self-control. Boyd Barrett likens it to compound interest on a savings account. Success builds on top of previous success.

So there you have it. Just a few tips for building up your self-control and giving you the confidence you need to move forward, presented in my own rambling, somewhat chaotic way. Today, I’ll blame it on paint fumes. :)

Have anything to add? Chime in! Not what you wanted to know? Sing out!

As always, thanks for stopping by. I do appreciate you!

{On a personal note: I’m behind on reading due to a bit of hectivity (hectic activity) on the homefront. I’ll be catching up later today and this evening. I’m counting on you all to provide a nice break time from my to-do list, and I’ll thank you in advance for it!:))

18 thoughts on “Finding (and Keeping) the Mysterious Mr. Will Power, Pt 2/2

  1. All of these steps make sense to me; I especially line number 5. Thanks for including the link!

  2. Great list!
    I especially like that you began with committing to something.
    I'd like to add that as time goes on, I found that committing to a weight goal just isn't enough. I had to commit to something specific that I could really & truly get done….which of course leads to #2 where you have to be honest & realistic. lol

    Nice post Cammy!
    Thanks for sharing,

  3. I have a saying of dedication, not motivation. It truly takes dedication to build new habits because will power and motivation are fleeting at best. You have to want to do it for the long haul, and not just when you have that first push to change.

  4. This post is almost as if you were directing it at ME! It comes at a most opportune time. Thanks.

  5. I love your list and the call for open discussion about willpower. Thanks for sharing your thoughts…I'm going to give this some thought and see how I can apply to my own journey.

  6. Awesome post. I especially like the "do anything" thing. So many times I have been so frustrated and irritated, feeling like I'm out of options and can't help myself, and I'd go for a walk. Even 10 minutes would be enough to clear out weird emotions and stabilize me. Not really exercise, more meditation. But whatever works, this has been psychological more than physical for me. No, forget all that, I like the idea of walking away with a mountain of chocolate with one piece, though that may be yesterdays. I love that I still indulge, but don't overdo, it makes me happy, and makes this tolerable.

  7. I also like the "do anything" part. I'm constantly trying and tweaking. I have to be careful about tweaking. Sometimes that causes me to not "do anything" anymore.

  8. Just wanted to say… though I've never really thought of my self as a self-denial type of person, I have been reminding myself of the image of coming away with just a bit of chocolate from the last post. It has been helpful lately!

  9. I missed the first post about will power, I'll have to find that one. The point that stuck out to me, and the one that we most often forget, is your point that we should expect problems. Just like you mentioned "hectivity" (I love that BTW!) can cause some backward steps once in a while, but when we know to expect them, it makes the journey a little easier to navigate.

  10. I'd like to agree with Lori above. Dedication not motivation is key.

  11. Great post Cammy! It all is in how much you want it & I do like that get real/be honest point!

  12. So many of these steps apply to me — esp. remaining honest and #5 – Practice. Can't wait to read E. Boyd's manifesto. The little bit you mention reminds me of Judith Beck and her cognitive therapy approach to healthy eating. You're right, we each need to find what works, and it will be different for all of us. Thanks for articulating your approach. Some day I need to 'articulate' too. I think the process of writing it out will help me better understand my weight struggles (nod to E. Boyd and J. Beck! And Cammy!).

  13. This was a great post and some really solid tips. I think it's wonderful that you found what worked for you and you are sharing that!

  14. Great list, Cammy! I especially like the one about thinking about what you're getting instead of what you are giving up – it's all in your mindset truly. I'm STILL having a hard time de-cluttering my life (have I mentioned that before???) and that strategy might even work for that. I'm having a hard time giving up the time to do it…

  15. Great tips and advice (as always)! I particularly like the positive one. I think keeping positive is so detrimental sometimes, and really makes a big, big difference. How you look at things and in what light can make or break you on this journey.

  16. I definitely relate to the points you presented. They were basically what I had to do to reach the place I'm in right now. I guess I just have to keep it up!

  17. I always keep in my mind that I can eat anything I want. I am choosing to eat on my plan. That way when challenged by someone to have "just a bite" or "can you eat this?" I always say I can eat anything, but I choose not to. It is very empowering.

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