Have you ever tried to change a part of you, but found something kept getting in the way? You keep saying “I’ll do it tomorrow; I’m too busy watching Judge Rinder right now”. Well, you’re not alone. Plenty of people say a lack of willpower is stopping them from improving themselves.
For people like us, it’s hard to change when we’ve got dietary requirements coming out of our ears. That and a lack of willpower on top is probably the worst crossover event in history. It’s no surprise then that so many of us struggle with our eating habits, but does it always have to be so hard?
Willpower or won’t power?
First, the good news - it turns out there’s more to change than willpower. A big part of change is motivation. Without motivation, you’ll never get anything done. For us, motivation looks like a severe allergy and not wanting to bloat to the size of a beached whale, or not wanting your cause of death to be one too many Haribo. But, whether you want to give up smoking, improve your diet, or go to the gym more regularly, having motivation is critical.
But that’s still not enough - you need to stay on top of your new behaviour. You should be keeping track of what you eat, your fitness improvements, or how long it’s been since you indulged. This’ll help keep you motivated which makes you want to watch what you’re doing more and more. It’s like a vicious cycle except… the opposite. Like a friendly cycle.
After those two things, then willpower comes in. It’s still a hugely important factor - willpower is going to make or break your habit change. It’s why some people choose to go cold turkey instead of weaning themselves off cigarettes or sugar, for example. And it’s why cold turkey doesn’t work for everyone.
Willpower is essentially a person’s ability to resist short-term temptations. We’d all like to have the dedication of Rocky, but we’re probably more like Tom Hanks in Big. To someone without a sugar addiction, it’s crazy that someone would sacrifice a long, healthy life for two minutes of pleasure with a Mars bar. But, we make these decisions impulsively. Because Mars bars are great. Our impulsiveness is always getting in the way of our ability to make the right decisions or focus on the bigger picture.
How can willpower affect your life?
You might think IQ is the best way of measuring how capable someone is. Sorry but that’s a big Family Fortunes ‘uh-uh’. It turns out that willpower is a better yardstick. Studies have shown that those ranking higher on the trait had better grades in school. It turns out that self-discipline was a better determinant of grades than IQ. So you finally have a good excuse for that D grade in food tech.
It doesn’t just count for school either. Another study found that people with higher self-control in childhood grew into adults with better physical and mental health, fewer substance-abuse problems, fewer criminal convictions, and better financial security.
These studies highlight the importance of willpower when it comes to reaching our goals. Now we finally have an excuse for watching 18 repeat episodes of Four In A Bed in a row. It’s not good TV, I just have really low self-control!
A lack of willpower stops us being able to adjust our diet, whether a result of diabetes or a newly-diagnosed intolerance. Luckily, just like your body and diet, you can strengthen willpower over time. No longer will you be sucked into the void of trashy reality from Channel 4.
You’ll be able to get up and say “No, Channel 4! I want to watch Game of Thrones like everyone else! And I definitely don’t want to watch Wife Swap USA after!” You’ll also be able to hold off on the foods you know aren’t good for your health. Strengthening your willpower gives you the support you need to live a healthy, safe, and satisfying life. It’s just that easy!
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