Willpower isn't infinite
"People have imperfect knowledge of their own willpower", which often leads us to overestimate how much of it we can spend on building new, healthy habits.
The issue is that our lives are packed with events (of our own doing or otherwise) that require us to spend our willpower so we can keep our reactions in check, control our impulses and behave according to our guiding principles (or fit within our society's standards).
- refraining from lashing out when provoked at work
- not cursing at other drivers in city traffic
- not walking out of boring meetings
- avoiding bumping into people on the street whose eyes are so glued to their phone that they forgot anything else exists around them and so on.
We all have our lists of stuff that pisses us off or triggers us to experience full-blown rage.
This is why we start our days with a healthy breakfast but end up overdosing on snacks after dinner.
This is why we can't make it to the gym in the evening because we feel so depleted that we can only think of the Netflix & chill combo.
So when we decide we're going to start eating less sugar, taking up running or sleeping 8h/night, we're adding strain to our willpower, wrongly assuming that we have an endless amount to cover all we want to achieve.
Our brain defaults to the most used path (if tired, then Netflix & chill) when lacking the resources to build a new one (see the neuroplasticity concept above).
Naturally, there's a choice we can make here: altering our lives to that the events that use up most of our willpower are eliminated, as much as possible, thus making room for building new habits.
While we discussed this during the workshop, I easily spotted at least 5 key things in my life that eat up my willpower:
- picking what to wear on any given day
- the daily commute
- meetings at work
- the challenges in my relationship with my mother
- my tendency to overwork myself to the point of burnout.
When you make a list like this, it's easy to spot what you need to work on and figure out what decisions you can make to improve your life.