Is your willpower waning? Diet and fitness resolutions not quite going to plan while you’re back at work, or just generally back to the normal grind?
My first advice? Don’t panic, don’t give up and don’t think that having willpower is something you’re just not capable of.
You see, as pointed out in a great feature in The Guardian today, willpower is waved in front of us like a mysterious talent. Something only a gifted few have.
But that’s just not the case. Willpower is a skill that can be practised and improved. Maybe you’ll never hit 100%, but you CAN move on from where you are now.
Interestingly, the feature looks back at a famous experiment in the 1960s, when children were offered either one marshmallow now, or two if they waited for 15 minutes. These children were monitored into adulthood and it was found that those who waited went on to get better results in school, had better health and lower divorce rates.
Not a bad reason to prioritise working on willpower or ‘delayed gratification’. So if you are struggling with your resolutions or finding yourself slipping back into old habits you’d promised to break, why not try some of our tips for getting back on track?
Make a Plan
This is something that I blogged about last week and stand by for these purposes – make a plan, write it down and you WILL be more likely to succeed (check out this article to learn more about that). Your fitness plan is a map to follow. If you veer off course you can refer to it, retrace your steps and get back on track, with minimum disruption. Remember the more SMART your goals are, the more effective they will be too.
Try not to overwhelm yourself with goals. If you’re trying to meet your soulmate, give up booze, lose five stone and move house all in one year, you’re setting yourself up for a fall. Work through one goal at a time, even if it means breaking them down into smaller targets, such as a set number of training sessions in the year or limiting the number of takeaways you eat (both targets a few of our Perform Fitness Family members have chosen to set for themselves).
Be strategic about how you use your “willpower bank”
Willpower isn’t an infinite resource, just like time, money or energy. You only have so much of it each day, year or throughout your lifetime, so you must use it wisely. If you have two goals you need to use willpower to complete, you’ll be more likely to succeed if you focus on one, so pick the one that will bring you the most benefit personally. For example, try not to plan “go to the gym after work” for the same evening as “tidy out the cupboard full of junk in the kitchen” – be realistic and kind to yourself.
Find the ‘why’?
A little bit of self-knowledge can go a long way. First of all, if you understand what energises and drives you, as well as what drains and demotivates you, you can use that to your advantage. Funnily enough, at Perform (where most of our members are aged 30 – 55) it seems to be stickers. Yes, that’s right – stickers just like when you were at school. A shiny gold, silver or bronze star to highlight an achievement (if you think I’m kidding, just look back through our Facebook and Instagram pages).
Think about why you’ve set these goals, what it will achieve for your life and what it will improve. Sometimes visualising the outcome will help you find a little bit more in reserve in the “willpower bank”.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Strive, but never punish yourself. No-one is perfect and we all stumble sometimes. Learn from your setbacks, ask yourself why you ‘fell off the wagon’ and figure out a strategy to stop it happening again. If you got home late and ordered a pizza for tea, rather than being plagued with guilt, identify the cause. Perhaps you were too tired to go the shops and there was no food in. That’s not an innate lack of willpower, it’s a lack of planning, something you can easily fix, with better planning for food for the week ahead.