Willpower…. why it lets you down!

Picture this……. you decide that you’re feeling a little out of shape, so you plan to start exercising every day starting on Monday. For some reason we always seem to decide to start these things on a Monday…..


Suddenly, Monday rolls around and when your alarm goes off for work in the morning, you struggle to get out of bed after quite a hectic weekend.


Then you toddle off to work and it turns out it’s quite a challenging day and you’re very busy. It was also somebody’s birthday, so the boss ordered cakes for morning tea. Not only did you not exercise in the morning when you got out of bed, but then you had cakes for morning tea!


Then, because of the morning tea/cake/birthday celebrations, not much work got done, so the boss asks you stay back for an hour. When you get home at the end of this extra long day, you remember “oh dear today’s supposed to be the first day of my everyday exercising regime……” sigh…..


What happens at this point, I’m going to guess, is that you slump on the couch with a glass of wine and you’re done for the night. I think most of us have probably been there and done this or something similar.


I think the above is quite a common scenario when we decide that something in our life needs to change. We decide to start doing something differently, or add something extra into our routine and more often than not it doesn’t work. Either it doesn’t even get off the ground to begin with, or we might do it for a couple days then it all gets too hard and we’re back to where we were before we even started this new thing!


One of the reasons for this is to do with willpower. Willpower is something a lot of people think they either have it, or they don’t. I actually think the difference between people is how well we utilize our willpower, as opposed to something we have or don’t have.


The best way to think about willpower is that it’s like your mobile phone battery. If you’ve got your mobile phone on charge overnight, when you get up in the morning it’s one hundred percent, and then as the day goes by and you use your phone, the charge slowly diminishes.


Our willpower is very similar. It’s strongest in the morning, and then as the day goes by it slowly gets less and less, particularly if things come along throughout the day that challenge our willpower and our self discipline.


If you’re starting something new, then it’s really difficult to implement if your willpower is running low. For example by the time you get home from work after quite a tough day, your willpower is almost down to nothing, so that’s probably not the best time to start a new exercise regime. An alternative to relying on your willpower is to create helpful habits instead.


One of the things I’ve talked about before when it comes to our brain is that it is lazy. There is a ton of brain science behind this, but at a very simplistic level it’s because our brain requires 25% of our energy to function. This is a lot, given it’s small size, in proportion to the rest of our body. The ramification of this huge energy requirement is that our brain takes any opportunity to have a rest, or conserve energy.


Our brain also doesn’t like change because that requires extra energy too. That should help explain why adding something new into our routine can be quite difficult, because we’re fighting against our lazy brain. That’s where habits can be so helpful, because habits are run by our subconscious.


Our conscious brain is easily overwhelmed and distracted, and our willpower might not be strong enough, depending on what time of the day we’re trying to implement this new thing, so creating helpful habits is probably the best way to succeed in this area.


Challenge: I invite you to decide on something that you would like to add to your daily routine. It could be exercising every day, or having a green smoothie, or meditating….. whatever it is that you want to add into your routine. Once you’ve chosen, commit to doing it when you get home from work tomorrow, and then see how many days you can keep this new thing going?

I would love to hear about your successes and your challenges.

We will continue this conversation in my FREE Facebook Group, Energised Women. If you’d like to join us, click here.