What is willpower?
Willpower is a limited renewable resource, meaning the more we use it, the less we have until we generate and replenish it. So how do we change it from a limited resource to a self-fuelling pattern of success.
Willpower is a mental muscle that doesn’t recover fast and needs to be refuelled; like a fast twitch muscle, incredibly powerful but has little endurance.
Each time you use your willpower; by making a difficult decision, resisting and urge or fighting temptations; you burn more and more until you have nothing left.
Think about it like a battery, you start the day fully charged with a full ‘bar’ of willpower. Each decision you make drains the battery a little more; and the less willpower you have (the emptier the bar) the harder it is to resist those temptations and make better decisions.
Think about your diet, how many tough decisions you make each day; those urges and temptations you have to resist through the day; each one takes its toll on your will power and ability to stay healthy. Ever been grocery shopping when you are extremely hungry? You generally end up coming out with a lot more than you went in for.
You may find yourself doing great during the day, but come in the evening and end up grabbing the crisps out the cupboard. All the choices you’ve made through the day have depleted your will power, and you have none left to resist the urge to snack.
When you’re tired it’s harder to make better decisions, you generally end up choosing the easier option. Think about it; after a hard day at work would you rather spend your evening cooking or get take-out? Many of us I think would fall into the latter.
When your willpower is drained, and you have nothing left to fight the urges, our bodies go to auto-pilot. We revert back to our default judgement; and depending what your default judgement is you may choose an apple over ice cream or vice versa.
So, we know willpower is limited, how do we replenish it and make better decisions?
Correcting bad habits or correcting our default settings; so that when we’re drained and our of will power we can rely on our default judgment to make good decisions.
This is a double-edged sword though, because correcting bad habits take time and a lot of willpower. This is where part two comes in, nutrition.
Our brain, which controls our will power makes up about 2% of our body mass, but consumes nearly a whopping 20% of our daily calories. Ensuring you have the right nutrition is vital to making better decisions, you literally have to fuel your mind for success.
In fact, research has shown a drop in blood glucose levels after making tough decisions. Maintaining a diet containing complex carbs and proteins help elevate blood sugar levels evenly over longer periods of time.
Like any muscle, when trained and with the right nutrition our willpower will strengthen, which makes resisting urges and temptations easier over time.
Great, so we know how to refuel our willpower, but how do we use it effectively?
Eat frogs for breakfast! Get the toughest, hardest decisions out the way first while your willpower ‘bar’ is full. Procrastinating and leaving these to later in the day leaves you with less will power to make the best choices.
I mentioned earlier it’s like a battery; to refuel this battery takes good nutrition and rest. Like any battery, our willpower bar is at its fullest after a long recharge; for most of us this will be the start of the day after a good night’s rest.
We start the day with a full ‘bar’ of willpower and slowly use it up during the day, giving it a few quick recharges with healthy meals and snacks through the day.
How do we make a change?
If you’re anything like me, understanding willpower helps me understand why getting healthy has been a challenge in the past, and still is for so many. Falling back on unhealthy habits, and bad nutrition is a recipe for disaster, leaving us with low willpower and a never-ending cycle of bad decisions.
The logical first step would be ensuring you’re getting the right nutrition throughout the day to keep your willpower bar full.
Following the 80/20 rule we know that a good diet makes up 80% of the work when it comes to getting healthy. I’d hope from the above, the 80/20 rule makes a little more sense, seeing that nutrition fuels your willpower, which fuels your success.
Secondly, ensuring your will power is charged through the day so you are able to make the right decisions to form good, healthy habits. Building new habits allows your default judgement to shift, allowing you to trust your default to make the right decisions when you’re running low om willpower.
Willpower is a powerful tool that can be used to fuel your success, whether that’s with your diet or other aspects of your life. Knowing how your willpower works and how to utilise it correctly ultimately gives you the power to make positive changes in your life. Using it correctly creates a pattern of good decisions that constantly fuels itself.