Have you ever set a goal for yourself—like eating healthier, starting an exercise routine, or getting more sleep, cleaning up your financial picture—only to fall off the wagon just a few days later?
That’s a rhetorical question, of course you have. We all have.
Some people struggle with self-control more than others, with that said all of us have faced this challenge. It's basically a prerequisite while we're alive.
Pop culture and its infinite wisdom holds that the problem is a lack of willpower. People who are bad at resisting temptation have a “deficiency” of willpower, or they’re just lazy and unmotivated. This idea comes with a lot of baggage—shame, guilt, and feelings of inadequacy. But is this really true?
Growing research suggests that people who are better at self-control don’t necessarily have more willpower. What it is that, they have working for them are two advantages:
They realize that building better habits begins with building and refining systems
They structure their environment in a way that reduces the need for willpower to kick in at all.
Some experts will say that will power is a finite resource, which means the more we use
it the faster it gets to empty. While some others say that will power is like a muscle that you can build over time. Whichever way it may turn out systems simplify life leaving true use of willpower for those moments when you really may need to dig deep to use it.
For example, as I sit and write this I'm watching the olympics. The way that these people became world class athletes was that they have a system they follow everyday that they have dedicated so much time to that they've become the best in the world. Along the journey it also became how they identified themselves, and once you identify yourself as for example a healthier, wealthier person who is always working on enhancing the relationships in life, it becomes second nature, with very little to no willpower involved.
If you do the same activities (like exercising or meditating) at the same time each day, those activities become a habit, that will no longer require willpower or self-control. Think of brushing your teeth. You don’t have to use willpower to do it; you just do it because your system is so refined to do it that it's become a habit. Likewise, if you don’t keep bad food choices in your house in the first place, you don’t have to exercise willpower to avoid eating it.
Creating systems that lead to good habits and a supportive environment is the key to achieving your life goals, whatever they are. Too often we focus on the “what” (i.e., “What diet should I eat?” or “What type of exercise should I do?”) without paying enough attention to the “how” (i.e., “How can I stick with that diet or exercise program?”).
Here's to increasing your health, and wealth!
Track Of The Day - Two Way Street - Kimbra