Dr. Day is a cardiologist and Medical Director of Heart Rhythm Services at his practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowship in cardiology at Stanford University. He is board certified in Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology.
Why is my willpower so weak?
Why is my willpower so weak but yet everyone knows you can do anything you set your mind to.
I’ll bet that’s what people have been telling you all your life. I’ll bet it’s something you’ve told yourself, too. And you know what? It’s simply not true.
What is willpower?
Willpower isn’t something you can simply conjure up when you need it. Studies have repeatedly shown that the ability to control one’s impulses, or to sustain a difficult task over time, works like a muscle. If fact, researchers have demonstrated that using our willpower actually zaps us of physical strength, just like using a muscle.
Secrets of People Who Enjoy Great Health
Surprisingly, I have found that my patients who have been the most successful at transforming their lives haven’t relied on willpower at all. Rather, they have engineered their lives so that for most of the day willpower isn’t needed at all.
For example, if your home is free of junk food then you never need your willpower muscle at home to eat right. Likewise, studies show that just wearing a pedometer boosts your exercise by 27% with absolutely no willpower required.
When willpower is needed, like when your coworker brings in donuts or leftover Halloween candy, the willpower muscle is strong and ready to spring into action.
The Dangers of Exhausting Your Willpower Muscle
How is this ruining your life? When you rely on willpower to help you achieve one specific health goal you’re robbing your body of the strength it needs for all sorts of other things. So even if you are able to accomplish the thing upon which you’ve focused your willpower (staying away from the pastries when you pick up your morning coffee, for instance,) you’ve made it less likely that you’ll have the strength you need to do something else later on, like using the stairs at work instead of the elevator or focusing on that big work project instead of Facebook.
Tip: Use an Accountability Device
We can’t turn willpower on and off. It’s not innate in any of us. Just like a muscle, it must be exercised to get stronger and needs time to rest and recover. And just as we have many different muscles in our body that do many different things, we have a lot of different kinds of willpower — and need to identify different ways to work out each kind.
We can start with food. Not all food. Not even a type of food, like those high in unhealthy fats or sugars. Just one specific food that you know you probably shouldn’t eat, but do anyway.
Which one? That’s completely up to you, but before you decide, I strongly recommend that you start using a food journal or app to keep track of what you eat over the span of a week or two. Studies show that the mere act of recording what you eat increases your chances of maintaining a healthy weight by up to 500 percent.
This journal or app will also help you better understand what your food choices actually look like. Your food journal or app then becomes your accountability device. The same thing can be done for exercise or anything else that is a struggle for you.
An accountability device is like putting your willpower muscles on steroids. This accountability device doesn’t even have to be a journal or app but could even be a person like a personal trainer. Basically it could be anything or anyone that keeps you accountable with yourself.
As long as you use an accountability device, you won’t fatigue your willpower muscle trying to eat right and exercise every day. Rather, you’ll be able to keep your willpower muscle strong for the other challenges in your life.
How do you keep your willpower muscle strong? Please leave your thoughts and questions below.
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Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.