This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve discussed willpower and it’s “muscle-like” effects. In fact, I think ~will power is a muscle~ is an almost perfect analogy.
Think of your bicep, for example. The more you use it and train it, the stronger it becomes. Willpower works similarly.
The caveat, however, is that everytime you use it, it becomes fatigued. Yes, just like your bicep. It can’t hold on forever. Similarly, it’s possible to run out of willpower if we tap into it too much.
Whether you’ve realized it or not, making decisions – ANY decisions – is exhausting. This is why we sometimes make decisions that We KNOW aren’t the best, but we make them anyway. And it’s not because we are gluttons for punishment; sometimes we’re just tired of making decisions. We’ve exhausted our willpower reserve. On Monday morning we have plenty, so we get up early, go for a walk and pack a healthy lunch. By Friday, we’re calling Poptarts breakfast.
Decision fatigue is a new idea, but it’s very real. We make more decisions than our ancestors ever did: They got up at six because the cows were hungry. They ate oatmeal for breakfast because there weren’t any eggs. They bought one gift for Christmas because everyone did. And they were probably happier for it.
The people under the most pressure in the business world usually take steps to limit the number of decisions they have to make each day, such as wearing the same outfit and eating the same breakfast every day. They do this to reduce the amount of willpower used for small day to day activities in order to leave more in the tank for later when the BIG decisions come up.
How do we avoid burning out our willpower? Habits.
Waking up at the same time every day.
Eating a lot of the same meals.
Getting our workout in at the same time every day.
Letting someone else choose our workouts.
Get a coach for guidance and follow directions. SHOW UP, not just physically but mentally with intention. Make your meals on Sunday, when you’re fresh and rested. Follow someone else’s plan for you until the habits are entrenched. Protect your ego and save your willpower for dealing with your boss or your kids.
When you start to treat willpower like a “muscle”, you’ll realize that making a few GOOD decisions for your health, instead of many many many decisions… is FAR EASIER.