Willpower is like a muscle. Like muscles it can be trained and developed to grow stronger. There are 3 key aspects to the development and strength of willpower:
- Energy: Your energy level plays a vital role in how you engage and persevere through changes that you are focusing on. Just like exercising, if your energy level is high, the workout is “easier” and manageable. However, if your energy level is low, even the simplest of workout feels hard. I am sure that you know and have experienced how much harder it is to focus or maintain self-control when you are tired. It requires a lot of energy to concentrate and perform a task that requires attention especially if it is new.
- Difficulty: The perceived level of difficulty will determine just how much willpower is required. If a change or new habit is perceived at level 1 of 10, the required willpower is fairly low, hence much easier to change and takes a shorter time for a new habit to be developed. Conversely if the perceived level of difficulty is 10, the required willpower is extremely high. Therefore it is important to manage the perceived level of difficulty.
- Environment: The environment that is supporting or hindering your attempts for change plays a part in either making it conducive or not for change. The environment is made up of people around you, physical location as well as structures or routines that you have. For example, if you want to make a change to your eating habits, surrounding yourself with junk food is going to make it hard for that change to take place. It would be a supportive environment if you remove all junk food and replace it with healthier options.
How would you overcome those barriers?
- Energy: What do you need to do to ensure that your energy level throughout the day is consistent? Do you know when your energy level is at its peak? When are you most productive or creative? What do you need to do to improve your energy level?
- Difficulty: Perception of difficulty is a mental challenge. It is challenge to change the way we perceive a situation or action. How would you change your perception of the change that you need to make? Break down the challenge to smaller manageable task until it does not seem so scary. What is the smallest part of the task to start off first?
- Environment: Explore areas of the environment that you could change or make slight changes to. Think of ways to support your desired change. Leverage on technology, redecorate or redesign your work environment, change a certain routine that is not working for you and so on.
For example, if you want to be punctual for your meetings, what changes would you need to do? You have tried putting your watch forward, scheduled multiple alarms and so on and yet nothing has worked. It is time for a different approach. Ask yourself
- What is the importance of being punctual for your meetings?
- How do you feel when others are late for a meeting with you?
- What is the core value that is being impacted by someone who is not being punctual for a meeting? Could it be respect, value of time, discipline or rudeness?
- Identify the value system that it is impacted to give you the inner motivation that is required to change your actions. It is that key that will give your willpower the starting fuel to get started.
- What structure can I put in place?
- How would you ensure that you start the day on time?
- What do you need to do to ensure the meetings are run efficiently?
- Do you need to put more buffer time for travel or meeting over runs?
- Be in control of your schedule else others will be in control of you.
Once you have an idea, establish the task or action that needs to take place. Then ensure that there is also a support structure to enable the actions to take place. Schedule the hardest task for when your energy level is the highest.
There is only ONE MUST do : Use it! The willpower muscle must be used in order for it to grow stronger. You must activate the Willpower muscle and to do you will need to make the decision and effort to do it.