23 Apr Willpower Part 4: Staying power
We can’t always rely on our willpower for every situation or temptation. You might have also noticed yourself having a lot of willpower over one stretch of time, and then almost no willpower over another stretch of time. There are ways to maintain willpower year after year, and also to have your willpower more evenly sustained day by day, week by week, and month by month.
Pre-commitment is one method
Ahead of time, decide how you are going to behave in a particular situation. For example, “When little Johnny is being noisy and rambunctious, I’m going to take him outdoors for some fun instead of yelling at him”, or “At parties I’m going to introduce myself to at least one person I don’t know”.
Saying your pre-commitments out load, and in front of others, will strengthen your resolve even more. Another way to think of pre-commitment is to think of rules, such as “only 1 cookie per day” or “flossing teeth Monday, Wednesday, and Friday”.
Self-forgetfulness may be helpful
In this way, we step outside our inner fears and focus on other people. “When I’m feeling awkward or shy, I’m going to ask myself how I can help the other person”. Another form of self-forgetfulness is focusing on something bigger than yourself, or thinking lofty thoughts, so that our behaviours are more nobly coloured; “Honesty in all things is my guiding light”.
Distraction is a powerful aid
Find ways to get your brain thinking about other things. For instance, if all you can think of is eating ice cream, distract yourself with some action such as drinking a glass of water, sweeping the floor, or going for a walk. This helps you put another thought into your brain, to displace the temptation thought.
Orderly habits are really helpful
This means that our desired behaviours become automatic. We don’t have to think about them, and neither do we need to use up our willpower to behave the way we want.
Developing orderly habits, of course, will need some willpower in the beginning, until they are well established and automatic. It’s also easier to focus on just two or three goals each week, so that you have enough willpower to establish good habits.
Lots of tools for you
Check back on all the willpower strategies covered in Willpower Parts 1, 2, 3, and now this 4th and final instalment. Start with the methods that appeal to you, and maybe add more strategies to help your willpower grow. Good luck!
Reference: Willpower by R.F. Baumeister and J. Tierney. 2011. The Penguin Press, New York. 291 pp.