Willpower runs out.
Consider this: everyday your brain is working hard so that you can function without thinking about it. Countless decisions and choices are being made every day of your life by your brain. We already know this though…
Can you tell me why is it though that you just brush your teeth in the morning (I mean, hopefully you do this)? Why do you just do it? Is it hard to remind yourself to do it or do you just do it?
Can you tell me why is it so hard for you to not be on your fast track at losing weight? Why don’t you just do it?
I’d like to introduce you to what is in play here: the concepts of willpower and what I call, automation.
Willpower is limited and you use it everyday. Let’s say you start off your day with 100points in your willpower tank. You use willpower when you say you will start a diet (50), exercise four times a week (30), do that fancy workout video (10) and the 30-day challenge every day (10) for the next month to lose weight. You are using ALL of your willpower to do this “diet & exercise – pursue a healthy life” stuff. How long do you think that will last? Not too long…that’s why there are so many people who start off strong but don’t finish. That willpower tank was overused!
Now, why did I bring up brushing your teeth too? Well, that is you on auto pilot! You know that when you wake up, you do it. There is really no choice or thinking about it. Was it always like that though? No! Once upon a time when you were little, someone had to teach you that. At first, it probably felt hard, like, “geez, why do I need to do this everyday” and you would keep doing it day in and out until one day it just felt automatic.
Let me explain: once upon a time, you used your willpower tank to brush your teeth. You’d use it over and over until your brain smartened up and just knew to do it so you wouldn’t have to use willpower. It put it in the auto pilot tank. Your auto pilot tank is huge compared to willpower! I have yet to tap out my auto pilot tank.
Now, let me connect the dots. Often times, we bite off way more than we can chew when pursuing a healthy life. You need to stop and understand that there are a lot of pieces to that puzzle and trying to tackle them all at once won’t be sustainable for very long.
You have to treat it like brushing your teeth – pick off one habit at a time that will use up some willpower until it becomes automated; something you do naturally that would make you feel “off” if you didn’t.
Doesn’t this take more time? Yes, it does. However, that is upfront work in order to reap the benefits later. I’d much rather build my habits one at a time so that I can lead a healthy life and have it feel natural for me – not exhausting because I am using my willpower tank.
Have you ever said to yourself, “man, that person is disciplined!” whether it be gym routine, what they eat, what they do, etc.? You ever wonder how that person makes it look effortless or too easy? Well, most likely it wasn’t always like that for that person. She had to build habits to support what you see. What you call discipline is probably her body acting on auto pilot.
Next time you consider a new goal for yourself think about the habits needed to support it. Then go for it one at a time.
The tortoise and the hare story makes so much more sense now.