Five Ways to Increase Willpower

I’ve been reading up on willpower for Create Your Glorious Self. The way to change behavior is to actually do it ; ). And that takes a certain amount of effort. New things are hard to remember and easy to blow off. So we have to design habits that are so easy we can do them even when we have zero energy. It’s all in the design.

As I read and thought about this, I took the VIA Character Strengths Survey (it’s free). There are 24 strengths.

My will power came in at #23.

Um.

I thought back to the questions. Many were along the lines of, “I always finish what I start.” Always? No. “I always do what I say I will.” Always? Nope. So, okay, if those are the criteria, I flunk. But something still rankled.

I’m enmeshed in the excellent Optimize Coaching program right now, and they are big on Self-Mastery, aka willpower. They ask, grandly, like this is the big reveal, “Who would you be, if you always did what needed to be done, whether you felt like it or not?”

Finally, it clicked.
A PARENT. That’s who.

I am a parent. I’ve spent decades doing what needed to be done whether I felt like it or not. I got a couple of glorious years off from that, and then I was caring for my own parent. I still have family stuff that requires me to do what needs to be done whether I feel like it or not. And I do not feel like it, at all. But I do it.

The other day, my acupuncturist (without whom I would not be writing this newsletter), said, “Everything you’ve done, you’ve done on will alone.” All my available focus goes to things that need to be done.

And there are consequences.

There’s not so much left over for the things I want to do. Or that aren’t active fires (I now do my creative work first. Everything else can wait. More on this next week).

One of the things about willpower is that using it takes a lot of energy. Studies show that folks who use up a lot of it on one task will often come up empty for the next one. In one study, folks had to do a Hard Thing, and then were offered a snack–ranging from healthy to cake.

Guess what they chose? Cake all the way. Nothing left to say No to cake.

Maybe you’re in a similar situation.
You don’t have enough juice to make yourself do all the stuff. But maybe you’re already doing a lot of Hard Things. And that drains your willpower…

Willpower is like a battery

It needs recharging. Hence cake–quick calories. So….

Five Ways to Increase Willpower

1. Plan in snacks!
When we do Hard Things, we can include snacks to help us along (preferably lower on the glycemic index) for more sustained energy. AND there are things we can do to leverage our available willpower (so we can do some of those things we don’t feel like doing ; ).

2. Leverage willpower with Habits
Last week, we talked about how to create new habits. The idea is to use willpower only to run the habit–the tiny, 30-second behavior that opens the way to the thing you want to get done. You build a routine that eases you from thing to thing, and you only have to push yourself a little bit, because the habit is designed to be ridiculously easy.

Of course some things (like finances, for me), are Hard. Not just to get started, but all the way through. When I hit a snag (there are lots of them) I veer right off into space-out mode, and that’s the end of that. So I have to ask myself, what causes me to “go away,” and how do I get back? And how do I make that a habit?

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to when I “space out” (aka dissociate). I’ve noticed that it happens when I feel overwhelmed. Dissociation is about escaping the present (uncomfortable) moment. You may do this, too. So how do we come back?

Three more options to increase willpower (and “come back” from dissociation)

3. Consciously drop in to the present moment, through orientation to the space and physical sensations.

4. Make a fist, or contract your muscles. Both have been shown to strengthen resolve.

5. Slow your breathing down to 4-6 breaths per minute. That’s 10-15 seconds per breath. Make the exhale twice as long as the inhale, while you’re at it.

Which one sounds best to you? How might that become a habit?
“After I space out, I _____. Then, I celebrate!”

So that’s my practice for this week. I invite you to join me!

With love,
Alia
PS Hopefully next week we can get a peek at the CYGS webpage. I’m still fine tuning ; ). In the meantime, you might like some music to increase your willpower. Try it with Power Pose Flows.

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