Resolutions and Willpower

Second week of January and keeping to your New Year’s Resolutions may be becoming a bit more of a challenge. Many clients say to me ‘Can you help me have more willpower?’

What is willpower and where does it come from?

One theory from research by psychologist Roy Bauermeister is that we only get a certain amount of willpower every day. Every choice we make depletes our ego and uses up some willpower so that by the end of the day we have very little left. This would fit in with the pattern I see in my therapy room where clients tell me that they can resist temptation all day and then give in during the evening.

Other psychologists suggest that willpower is an emotion that you can’t force. A lack of willpower may be an indicator that you are not convinced about the importance of the change you want to make. If you have resolved to lose weight but then you find yourself eating a muffin it could be that you haven’t thought through all of the reasons why you want to be slimmer. If willpower is just an emotion that comes and goes, then you can’t force it, anymore than you can force yourself to feel content.

If you want to keep to your resolutions, whatever they are, here are my top tips.

Tip 1 Be clear about why your resolution is important to you

Write your resolution down. Note down all of the things that achieving this resolution will bring to you and all of the reasons why it is important. Write the reasons in the present tense.  For example: I want to be 5kg lighter by 1 July. At this lighter weight I am confident wearing my summer clothes. I am happier in myself. My knee and hip joints are working better and pain free. I am eating a healthier diet and generally feeling more energised.

Tip 2 Make it easy to keep to your resolution.

The easier you make it to keep to your resolution the more likely it is that you will do it. As Shaun Achor says in ‘The Happiness Advantage’, ‘If you want to start going running every morning go to bed in your running shoes.’ Who hasn’t woken up in the morning determined to go to the gym and then thought ‘Where did I put my gym clothes/bag/ipod/drinking bottle/membership card?’ and then decided to leave it until tomorrow. Have a plan and implement it.

Tip 3 Make it hard to break your resolution.

If you have resolved to lose weight, put the snack foods away in the cupboards so that they aren’t prompting you to eat them. If you want to cut down on your internet game playing time delete the games from your appliances or make them password protected so that it takes more time before you can play them. If you are giving up smoking avoid the places where you know people are smoking. Change your usual behavior patterns so you don’t slip into doing what you have always done.

Tip 4 Plan for the challenges and obstacles

Life will always throw up challenges and obstacles. Think ahead to what you can do in those circumstances. Creating a meal plan at the weekend and shopping for the ingredients will help you to keep to your healthy diet. Booking some classes at the gym will help you with your exercise and fitness plan. Writing 1,000 words a day will keep you moving towards completing your book.

Tip 5 Find an accountability buddy

You may think that if you tell a lot of people about your resolution you will be more likely to keep it. Wrong! When you tell your friends about your resolution they will congratulate and praise you and you will get a dopamine reward from your brain. Your friends will forget and you will not be embarrassed if you don’t succeed. It is more helpful to choose a friend who will keep you to your commitment. Someone who will ask you regularly about your progress. Even better if that person has also made a resolution and you can support each other.

If you need a bit more help to achieve your goals contact me and find out how I can help you.