On Willpower and Habits

I like to think I have pretty strong willpower and self-control (I am defining both as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals”, per the American Psychological Association). Yet I must admit that the past six weeks have challenged both. 

Case in point: I had decided after my January 21-day cleanse that I would not drink three days per week and “forever” give up carbs (in particular carbs with gluten). Instead, I have not been drinking two (not three) days per week, and two weekends ago, I “fell in a jar of carbs” and could not help but eat bread (albeit, home-made by my husband) all weekend long. 

So I have been thinking a lot about what is “wrong” with my willpower and self-control. 

Fact 1: My non-drinking days have been Mondays and Tuesdays.  

Fact 2: My carb black hole happened over a weekend. 

Conclusion 1: I have a limited supply of willpower. My willpower bucket is full on Monday, and little by little this “store” of willpower decreases as the week goes on. 

Fact 3: I have also come to realize that the current world situation is impacting my willpower and self-control. Indeed, my willpower “store” is being depleted more quickly than “during normal life” And I have been wondering why… 

Conclusion 2: Managing a brand during a global pandemic means that I have been doing extra (hard) thinking and having to make a million extra (hard) decisions. Apparently, hard thinking and decision-making depletes willpower. 

I know that willpower is like a muscle and can be developed. I also know that willpower is a renewable resource. But I have not been able to “get more” willpower. So instead, I have developed strategies to “help” my willpower and self-control. 

Strategy 1: Sleeping more. 

I pride myself on not needing much sleep and usually sleep five to six hours per night, but these days, I am utterly exhausted by 9 pm. I still wake up by 5 am, but I am needing seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Instead of fighting it, I have given in and have been sleeping more. 

Strategy 2: Transforming decisions into habits.  

Making a decision takes willpower. Living a habit does not (or takes less). So I have made a habit that Thursday is my third non-drinking day every week. Now I wake up on Thursdays and know this is a no-drinking day. I don’t have to make a decision about it. It just is. Which means it’s ok if by Thursdays my willpower is depleted. 

Strategy 3: Organizing my days accordingly.  

I have been leaving all “menial” tasks for Fridays. Things that need to get done but do not require a lot of creativity or thought. Things like paperwork and Quickbooks reconciliations. 

What do you do to help your willpower and self-control?

One thought on “On Willpower and Habits

  1. I have been mourning the loss of my willpower lately. It fell off a cliff during quarantine, but I really saw the decline begin in my mid-40s. From infancy until 42 or so, I could and would withstand anything in the name of my goals. I’ve lost that fire somehow and desperately miss it. I know you have it in spades darling — thanks for sharing your methodology with us. I hope to hear more. xoxo T

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