Even though we rightly know what the best choices and actions are that lead to a healthier lifestyle, quite often when it comes to the crunch, our willpower takes charge. Before you know it there goes another day, another 3 pm chocolate bar with another opportunity to make a change. Damn it.
So, what’s up with that and why do we so easily repeat something when we know it’s not the best option…Better still how do we go about fixing it?
There have been many studies published lately that prove this crazy phenomenon and it’s called decision fatigue (yes there is a science behind it). What this means is that from the moment we wake we’re bombarded with decisions that demand our attention.
Without even realising, decision making around simple tasks such as “Shall I put petrol in the car now or later”?, “What’s for dinner tonight”?, “Which shirt shall I wear”?, “What are the kids going to have in their lunchbox”? Ultimately the hundreds of small decisions we make, leave us with a useless willpower muscle come the afternoon. This is why we choose unhealthful habits or choose the most convenient option (like not lacing up your joggers but reaching for the ugg boots!).
It’s common to feel this way after a busy day, even though you might not have done anything physical. The good news is that you can take this head on and devise plans of attack to help overcome this ‘lack of willpower” in regards to your exercise, diet, and wellbeing. Instead, use willpower to your advantage by building mental resilience at the right times.
5 Tricks I Use Everyday So I’m NOT Relying on Willpower
1. Knock over the important things early in the day
Is it exercise? Eating a healthy breakfast? Planning and making your meals for the day? Working on a new business venture? Make a list and get the more important things done first while your morale and enthusiasm is high. More than likely if you have a demanding day ahead, this will deplete all willpower and make it nearly impossible to achieve later in the day (I just want to relax!)
I know I find it hard to knock out a hard session in the evening after presentations, seeing clients and running around after the family so choose to see mornings as an opportunity. Hardly ever will you regret waking up 30 minutes earlier, but so thankful that you made that decision to stick with your guns and not opt for immediate gratification by staying in bed.
2. I do a nightly mind check
Before you close your eyes, run through in your mind what the next day brings. What do you want to do? What’s on for the family? Set your workout clothes next to your bed so it’s one less decision in the morning.
Have the evening meal in mind from the meal plan you made at the start of the week with the ingredients already in the fridge that you bought from your weekly shop. Know what things you want to tackle first (see above). Plan, plan, plan!
3. Don’t (try not to) stress the small stuff
Arm yourself with knowing that your willpower has a fatigue rate by saving it for the important stuff.
Don’t waste your energy on things out of your control or that can wait until later. A 5-minute power meditation is a great way to top up willpower levels if they feel a little low during the day.
4. Feed yourself well
It is hard to make any good decision if your mind isn’t clear and a clear mind comes from a healthy body (and happy tummy). Take healthy snacks to work or carry them in your handbag to counteract the times you are feeling depleted and need to decide on something that maybe requires you to think beyond your decision threshold!
A balanced body comes from balanced eating and a balanced mind. If you charge yourself up on coffee or sugar and rely on this to get you through the day then you’re probably facing burnout
5. Don’t over think everything man (I’m working on this one)!
It’s easier just to do things than think about them too much. More often than not, we spend so much damn time to and froing whether we should do something we know we should be doing when in the end it could have already been done. If this is not the definition of crazy then it certainly will make us feel like it!
Spending more than 5 minutes deciding if it will be beef or chicken for dinner, to go for a jog or surf (or do nothing) or choose one bread loaf over another is just a precious time waster and guzzling away your willpower tank. Another reason why planning is important. No more than 2 minutes on a decision people! Oh, and know how to recognise when that evil twin is sitting on your shoulder trying it’s hardest to make you take the easier option. Begin to tap into your internal dialogues and what may not be necessarily true.
It’s nice to have decisions to make, it makes life interesting and stops that ‘robotic’ feeling that can come with a sense of Groundhog Day, but what we need to remain wary of is there becomes a time where it can work against you and end up taking you in the opposite direction from where you want to be.