"I lack willpower. I could never eat the way you do."
"I'll never go away on vacation. I don't have the willpower to stick to a budget."
"Only people with a huge amount of willpower can exercise regularly."
Diets. Budgeting. Exercising.
These are all things we commonly associate with willpower.
But have you ever associated "decision fatigue" with willpower?
I certainly never heard of decision fatigue while I was struggling for nearly 20 years to lose weight and keep it off. And, unbeknownst to me, (by not practicing the strategies I'll share with you here) I was chipping away at my willpower with every decision I made.
Now, in my work as a life coach and speaker on resilience, balance and courageous conversations, I've since grown to understand that we have a finite amount of willpower in our day. However, the exciting thing is that we have control over how we preserve it.
One of the leaders in the field of willpower is New York Times Bestselling author, Roy Baumeister. In his book, "Willpower", he theorizes that willpower most likely behaves like a muscle. He believes that we wake up in the morning with a finite of willpower (the ability to say "no" to ourselves and delay gratification in pursuit of a goal). As the day goes along, with each decision we make (big or small), we delete that supply bit by bit... decision by decision. This is what's known as "decision fatigue".
And this was big (and transformative) news for me.
For years I had been having an ongoing debate (with myself) about what I would have for breakfast... this or that. And then the debate would continue... how much of this or that will I have? The craziness would drone on in my head, even after the decision was made. Maybe I shouldn't have had that. I probably should have eaten this. (UGH! I'm fatigued just recalling my ineffective and defeating old morning habit.) Conversations like this unfolded in my head ALL DAY LONG. No wonder I felt like I had no willpower and struggled with making consistent, healthy food choices.
I'm currently reading Caroline Adams Miller's latest book, "Getting Grit", where she recounts a story about President Barack Obama.
In it, she shares that when Obama was President of the United States, he would only wear blue or grey suits. He would only eat what was served to him. And he allowed other people to take over mundane decisions in his day, like choosing his socks.
What initially appears to be a bit odd or at the very least rather interesting, was actually routed in social psychology of the day.
The President chose to preserve his decision making energy because of the recent (at the time) findings on willpower. He knew that effortful decisions use up willpower. And he wanted to save his energy and willpower for things that mattered most.
Various internet sources estimate that adults make about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day.
Let's streamline those decisions and use these 2 presidential hacks to bolster our own willpower.
Here are 2 keys to bolster willpower:
- Routinize: Don't go through your day distracted by trivia. Set up an effective routine for things that are often repeated in your day/week. (Get up at the same time each day, wether or not it's the weekend. Do your morning chores in the same order, to streamline things.)
- Keep it simple: Don't abuse willpower by complicating decisions. (Just like the president, could you simplify your wardrobe or food choices?)
Want more strategies and tools for more clarity and energy this summer?
I'll be leading a webinar on June 26th, 2017, where I'll be sharing strategies and tools for Clearing the Clutter: Creating Space In Our Homes and Minds. And you can be a part of it.
You can sign up for the live webinar now, however, I'm only offering this interactive webinar to members of my private, women's only Facebook group, A Work In Progress #LivingFullyBalanced. If you're not already a member, and want to attend, just click here, and I'll bring you right on in.
Lisa Bobyak is the founder of Living Fully Balanced, LLC, the go-to source for busy women who are ready to balance their lives and fully engage in the life they’ve been designed for.
Exhausted by all you do, yet feel like you never get anything done?
Frustrated by unending attempts at yo-yo dieting?
Selflessly give to others, yet not getting the same in return?
Contact Lisa for a complimentary Breakthrough Session and see how The Living Fully Balanced Approach can work for you.