Why will power isn't the way!
If you set a goal to get healthier this year, whether it is to eat better, exercise more, stress less or improve your sleep, the common approach is to get super focused, TRY really hard to follow whatever rule or plan you have set for yourself and call in on willpower to keep you on track.
But… after the week started well, by Thursday evening, you have a wine when you told yourself you wouldn’t drink during the week, then you feel bad. You have a chocolate bar when you have promised yourself to be ‘sugar free for a month’, or maybe for a few weeks in the year you skip the gym class which you have told yourself you must be at, then beat yourself up for not being disciplined enough! Plus, when you do have delicious treats (like this yummy custard square I had…) you feel guilty about it.
Not only are goals that are overly restrictive or too rigid destined to fail, relying on willpower to keep you on track is like expecting two year old to be able ‘sit and eat nicely’ after skipping their daytime nap. i.e. It’s not going to happen!
Willpower is like a muscle that wears out, when you get tired at the end of the day, or your mind gets overloaded at the end of a full on week, its power starts to fail. Willpower does have its place and it can be trained to increase its strength…but when you rely on willpower too much and have to constantly be in your logical conscious ‘thinking’ brain to keep yourself on track, you will no doubt end up ‘falling off’ whatever wagon you have put yourself on and end up feeling disappointed with yourself for not doing what you said you wanted to do.
But, it is not you that failed!! It is the approach. Willpower alone is NOT enough.
Enter habits, routines and default behaviours. This is your autopilot mode. The part of your brain that has picked up patterns it sees of things that you do over and over again, without having to think too much about them. Brushing your teeth doesn’t feel too hard right? Or driving to work and getting there without needing a map every time…you can sometimes feel like you have arrived at your desk without remembering the journey there! When your brain does the same thing over and over again, it stored it in your subconscious and helps you do it without thinking about it.
If you approach changing your health this year from the angle of habit change, you will find it much easier to keep on track. People who appear to be ‘naturally healthy’ don’t try that hard, because they are in good routines, have solid habits where their subconscious is keeping them in line, and they don’t end up with the self-sabotage cycles that happen when you battle with willpower. Plus, the bonus – when your habits are on track, you can plan and enjoy treats like this custard square without feeling bad about it because it is absolutely ok to have treats sometimes, but – when you consciously choose too, rather than a result of filing an emotional gap.
Here are 3 tricks to help you create healthy habits:
Become AWARE: Awareness is the first stage of change. If you have unhealthy habits that take you off track, the first step is to identify when they are happening.
Keep a diary and see the patterns. This is covered in week 25 in my ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ planner.
Create time and location anchors – struggle to make exercise happen? Or other habits? It is much easier if you have a consistent time and location locked in. Plus, habit stack – add a new habit to an existing one!
Need more help creating healthy habits that STICK and get the results you have been looking for? Check out 'It's a Beautiful Day' planner, the perfect tool to help you look and feel your best!
After overcoming 15 years of willpower fuelled self-sabotaging behaviour going on and off diets, doing exercise binges then nothing at all from my early teens, my planner is the way I keep myself on track. It’s only $36, plus a free gift when you order two or more.