Did you know that willpower is a limited resource?
It’s kind of like the energy bar in a video game … you use it up as you go about all the things happening in your life … and at some point, you run out!
To test this, researchers placed participants in situations in which they had to practice self-control – not laughing at a funny movie or not eating chocolate chip cookies in front of them.
The control group could laugh or eat as many cookies as they wanted.
The results? The group that had to resist temptation did not perform as well on the second task as the group that was allowed to give in to temptation, said Timothy A. Pychyl, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa.
The conclusion was that those who had to exert more willpower in the first task “exhausted their self-regulatory strength, at least temporarily, and therefore are unable to muster the self-regulation needed for the second task.”
An example, as this might relate to your fitness goals … if you have to be very disciplined at work and get lots done on tight deadlines, etc … going home and expecting to whip up a healthy meal, when you could just swing through the drive thru and veg out in front of the TV instead … is VERY HARD hard to do.
So first, don’t feel bad if you know that lack of willpower is holding you back from reaching your fitness goals. It’s not totally your fault.
But here is what you need to do to get yourself on the right track:
1 – Figure out what your #1 fitness goal is
For the sake of example, let’s say it’s fat loss.
2 – Figure out what the #1 thing that’s holding you back from reaching that goal is
Working with the same example, a common problem folks seem to have with reaching their fat loss goals is getting their diet in check.
3 – Make that thing a PRIORITY … and get it done EARLY in the day, before other things that demand your willpower pop up
If you know that getting your diet in check is the #1 obstacle in reaching your fat loss goals, then make getting that organized and as fool-proof as possible a priority.
Make a plan for the week – ahead of time – as to what you’re going to eat each day.
Get your snacks, meals, and water ready for the day early each morning, so that you have what you’re going to eat ready to go and planned out.
Know your “bad” habits, and try to take measures ahead of time to work around them. Don’t have chips or ice cream in the house if you know you’ll eat them all when you are sitting on the couch Friday night after a long and stressful week. Have a water bottle with you at all times so that you know you will get the amount to drink that you need each day.
In summary, research backs up the idea that willpower is a limited resource. So, if you are trying to lose fat – or build muscle, or improve performance, or whatever else – prioritize the #1 thing that’s holding you BACK from reaching that goal, and take the necessary steps ahead of time, when your willpower is highest, to plan for success.
Rock on, let’s make it a great week –
– Forest Vance
Certified Personal Trainer
Master of Science, Human Movement