We talk about having enough willpower to avoid eating a piece of chocolate cake on a diet or struggling with an addiction like smoking, but we keep failing. Outside of the chemical fixation, what are we doing wrong? Perhaps willpower is overrated. We are told at a young age that we could accomplish anything if we just have enough willpower to push through. How exhausting! The truth is willpower can be very inadequate. If we continue to pull from this power supply--the reserves will become empty. No matter who you are, keeping up with your personal goals, your lifestyle and your obligations will wear you down. This is why many people who follow self-help programs based on willpower, experience more disappointment because they could not achieve their goals. Whether it was weight-loss goals, personal goals or accomplishing their dreams--willpower alone simply couldn’t sustain them. When there is this constant pressure to keep moving forward regardless if a situation is monumental or not, we become fatigued. The fatigue is not just physical, the American Psychological Association reported.
“Those whose willpower was depleted by self-control tasks showed decreased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region involved in cognition. When your willpower has been tested, your brain may actually function differently,” the APA reported. People become more willpower depleted because the brain is working hard to maintain control and it starts consuming glucose at a faster pace than it can replenish itself. The brain is powered on blood sugar to keep it functioning and burnout follows when willpower is the only focus. Low glucose levels in the brain are just part of the complexity, but there is more. Here is what you can do when your willpower is running on fumes.
Start creating healthy habits.
When willpower fails, you can always rely on good habits to kick in. Habits all start out as small goals and then they become a pattern. Everyone is capable of developing these patterns. They can be good or they can be negative. Do you know that you can trick the brain into developing better habits? If you want to start making healthier habits regarding your mental well-being, start to assess behaviours that are causing stress. If your stress is from traffic, from work or from raising a family--look at making small changes and stick with it. Try a different route to work, delegate more tasks on your job or get a babysitter for a night to take a break. Once you start practicing good habits, it can be a life changer. Better yet, it will be a great backup when you don't have the will to move on.
Learn to become more mindful.
The American Psychological Association explained that the term “mindfulness” is a state of awareness and is a moment-to-moment awareness of one's experience without judgment. Mindfulness can aid us when willpower is simply no longer there. They say everything starts with the mind and then the rest follows. If your mind is going too many directions you won’t be able to focus on your goals and you will feel drained. Once we can learn to calm our thoughts in any circumstance--it will give you the boost that you need to become more presumptuous. Mindfulness battles illness, distractions, anxiety and may ease depression. All of these are enemies of willpower. The more awareness that you possess, the more appreciation that you will offer to others and to yourself!
Start being more positive.
If you want to short out your willpower, be a negative person who finds fault in everything, even the good. We are usually our worst enemy. Take on the good and start observing what is working in your life. It can be the small things in life. Like enjoying nature, family, friends or enjoying a favorite hobby. Ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu explained that we have a choice in choosing positive actions because they will dictate our happiness. "The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days," Tzu wrote. There is a correlation between being positive and having success.
Start dreaming again.
When things get stale we tend to focus on what worked before. If it is not working, change it! You know the saying if the door is not opening, find a window? The point is to change course when things are not unfolding for you. Start thinking of other ways to solve the problem and ways to create a different version of your dream. Make time to find out what you really want in life. What is important to you? Be honest with yourself. When we lose the ability to dream, it deflates our willpower because we lack vision.
Find better company.
Nothing defeats a person more than being around people who are not supportive. If people are full of pessimism and you are wanting to focus on the good despite the circumstances, then they will punch holes into your willpower. We are going to have to throw a little Proverbs your way from the Bible. Proverbs 13:20 shared the following about the company that we keep. "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." If you are finding that the people that you are spending time with are causing damage--then it's time to say "goodbye." We are talking about the people who gossip, stir-up trouble and are simply discouraging to be around with.
Maybe there is something to the way the brain reacts when we utilize willpower. If this is true, we need a backup when willpower fails us. When we use all of our resources we can accomplish more in our lives. Maybe we could finally overcome the temptation of eating that piece of chocolate cake and smoking that cigarette.