Supporting Sport

The Secret To Developing Incredible Willpower

Want to Do More but struggling to find the motivation? Does it seem like too big a task and you find yourself discouraged? Aberdeen-based personal trainer Mike MacDonald can tell you how to develop the willpower you need to get motivated and Do More, one step at a time.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have incredible willpower? If we could stick to our healthy lifestyle and get done what we said we’d get done? 

Well… we can.  But there’s a secret to it.  And it’s not what you think.  The secret of willpower is that it’s not about willpower.  It’s about something else…

The thing is, willpower is kind of like our muscles.  Sure, with practice, we can work to make it stronger.  But – like muscles – sooner or later, willpower fatigues. Even the fittest, strongest muscles get tired and need rest, and willpower is the same.  If we keep relying on it, inevitably it runs out.

For most of us, the day is littered with situations that drain our willpower reserves: we will ourselves out of bed in the morning.  We will ourselves to avoid the cupcakes at work.  We will ourselves to make a healthy choice at lunch.  We will ourselves to stay calm when the boss dumps a load of work on our desk.  Then we have to will ourselves to hit the gym on the way home.

With our willpower well and truly fatigued, it’s easy to skip that workout.  Or lose patience with others.  And the biscuits become irresistible.

And it’s not much wonder; if we have to willpower our way through our day, we’re sitting on a ticking time bomb and sooner or later it all blows up.

We don’t “just need more willpower”.  We need to stop relying on willpower.

Instead, we need helpful habits.  Have you noticed that, no matter how tiring your day has been, you rarely have to will yourself to clean your teeth?  That’s because, when willpower is low, we resort to our habits.  Take a typical January health kick, for instance.  We start motivated, but without building the habits associated with a healthy lifestyle, willpower eventually fatigues and people return to their old ways.  “If only I had more willpower”, they say.

If only they’d taken the time to build a foundation of healthy habits.

How do you that?

1. Pick one habit at a time 

Pick one thing and practice it daily.

2. Make it ridiculously easy

If it’s hard, it’ll take too much willpower just to get started.  Remember your goal is to form the habit.  Once the habit is formed, you make things harder.

3. Have a trigger for the habit

This helps make your habit automatic.  So when ‘a’ happens, I automatically do ‘b’.  (e.g. When I leave the house, I lock the door.) 

4. Track the habit

Research suggests it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit.  Check-off your habit daily until it becomes the ‘new normal’.

5. Find a sense of purpose

Even with this system, there are still going to be times when it’s challenging and you don’t feel like practising your habit.  Having a big, emotional reason to stay on course makes it easier to follow through.  What is your ‘why?’ 

So don’t worry if you’re finding it hard to start a new lifestyle over night. Take one thing at a time, take it slowly, and get used to your new habits. Doing More will become second nature before you know it!

Mike MacDonald BSc, PgCert is a personal trainer, coach and author of the book Energy Is Everything: Mindset, Nutrition and Exercise for the best version of youClick here to read the first chapter of his book for free.

Twitter: @AKRConditioning

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