Last week we delved into willpower as more akin to a depletable resource versus the notion that it was more like a muscle that could be strengthened. I think willpower is fascinating to study and learn about. You could spend hours reading all the research, and I have, but mostly I am looking for how it applies to my daily decision making.
If it is more like a depletable resource and we only have about 15-minutes’ worth of willpower at any given moment, that means I will need to find a different strategy than relying on willpower to make lifestyle changes. And that strategy is called a plan that we default to when temptation is creeping in. We do have some willpower we can muster against wrong foods, thoughts, or our busy schedules, but for most folks, willpower has been pretty wiped out just getting the kids or yourself out the door.
We also talked about that since we only have limited willpower, it might make more sense to make one lifestyle change and focus on that. If you want to incorporate more veggies and fruits and less packaged foods or convenience meals, that would be a change that could require a lot of energy. Adding going to bed earlier, drinking more water, and going to the gym 3x per week could be a recipe for failure.
All of those areas are important to living happy healthy lives. But if you are not accustomed to doing any of them and they will all be a lifestyle change or a new habit, chances are you will not be able to get traction on any of those goals long term. This is primarily because now you are tackling 3, 4, 5 new habits. And with a limited amount of willpower to draw upon and considering that you are also using willpower for ordinary decision-making tasks, it might be wiser and more successful to concentrate on winning with one lifestyle change.
Which one is up to you and depends on what area of your life you want to change because if you don’t want to change the area, it won’t matter. Wanting to make a change is necessary to make a change. Something like 180 million Americans are going try and lose weight this year, multiple times. If this is where you find yourself, focus on losing weight through eating more fruits, vegetables, proteins, good carbs, fats and only focus on changing your diet. The more changes you add, the more plans you will have to develop, follow and implement to be successful. Once you are winning with food and it becomes more of a permanent lifestyle change—add in another.
This could be reversed and you could commit to getting stronger by going to the gym. Once that habit is in place tackle another change. It is just really hard to make multiple lifestyle changes at the same time. I encourage you to pick one goal and get after it. Develop a plan and add some accountability and attack the new habit until the old habit surrenders. Then put the next lifestyle change on notice that you are coming after it next!
Your Health Advocate and Farmer,