Sometimes, well, most of the times actually, I feel I have no willpower at all. I just spend all of my time doing what I want, whenever I want. I am unable to set goals and actually follow them, and I can’t avoid a behavior that I know will be harmful in the long term.
On the plus side, nobody can’t say that I don’t live in the present. I am actually so focused on the present that I don’t care about the consequences of my actions. Worse, I always feel that I can leave things for tomorrow, because of course tomorrow I will be a way more responsible person.
Well, unfortunately, tomorrow me is always disappointing when she becomes today me.
I have always very good excuses to not doing what I should do, my favorite of all times being “I have to stop pressuring myself, I don’t have to be perfect, I’m gonna give myself a break now”. You maybe haven’t noticed, but this one is especially great since it makes me feel that giving up on a goal or giving to a temptation was actually something that required a decision from me, and yeah, even willpower.
Amazing the bluff we can demonstrate even to ourselves, right ?
Anyway. To sum up, I started to have the feeling that I wasn’t able to show willingness in any part of my life, and it made me want to do something about it.
At first, I tried to set very rigid goals, that let no opening for negotiation. But I set them too much or too high, and I was discouraged very quickly. (I already talked about it in my very first post)
So, I went to my usual plan B: procrastination by books. I started with “The Willpower Instinct”, by Kelly McGonigal. Apart from the fact that the name of the author is very similar to the one of my favorite teacher from Harry Potter, the Internet suggested that it was the reference book about willpower. Fair enough.
To start, I learned that the better technique to avoid distractions is meditation. Of course it’s meditation, meditation seems to be the answer to everything these days. But, distractions are not my current issue: to be distracted, you already must have actually started to do something.
Then, I found out that willpower can actually be trained, like a muscle. Which is kind of ironic, because among other things I would like to exert my willpower to finally take the habit of training my physical muscles.
But, the even more interesting part is that like other physical muscles, willpower can get tired when used too much. Well, it doesn’t seem that I exhaust mine too much, right ?
Wrong, as it seems. What Kelly McGonigal writes is that everything we do, even without thinking about it, exerts our willpower a little bit more. When you think about it, it takes some willpower to get up in the morning, get dressed, brush our teeth, go to work. And then, when we come home in the evening, our willpower is drained and we can’t anymore resist to the temptation of picking up junk food or spending hours in front of the TV.
It is true that on most evenings, I feel that I deserve to chill and to not force me of eating things I don’t want to eat.
And Kelly McGonigal just gave me the perfect excuse to keep on doing that. “It’s not me, it’s science.”
I know I’m being a smartass here, this book is actually very interesting. Unfortunately it didn’t help me having the breakthrough I was looking for.
This breakthrough I actually had it with another book that I thought was not related: “Mini Habits”, by Stephen Guise.
In “The Willpower Instinct”, she advises to train our willpower by little things like having a bowl of candy on the table and trying to avoid eating it. I tried, but failed miserably, just because I didn’t see the point of resisting this temptation. Having the willpower of training my willpower was already too difficult for me.
In “Mini Habits”, Stephen Guise takes the same kind of approach, but applied to any long term goal we could have. What he says is that instead of trying to have everything we want happening overnight, which will obviously fail and probably discourage us, we should take very small increments towards this direction.
For example, I want to take the habit of exercising. I already tried to set goals like “doing 1 hour of exercise twice a week”, but it never happened because I always postponed the session to tomorrow. But, if I follow this new direction, what I have to do is to find the most ridiculous goal I could achieve that would lead me towards this direction. I chose to do just 10 crunches everyday. I don’t have to actually go to the gym, I don’t have to dress for it, I just have to take a minute. Even my twisted mind can’t find a reason not to do that.
I have now a 20 days streak with this, and I think that soon I will be ready to take another step. In the meantime, I will keep on proving to myself that I have some willpower, and that I can be proud of it.