“I just wish I had more *willpower”, it has to be one of the most commonly used phrases I hear when it comes to people making changes to their food or exercise plan.
*willpower also known as grit, determination, and motivation: the ability to stick at something.
This is closely followed with “I wish I had YOUR motivation” like I’m some sort of super machine. The truth is I’m not, but more on that later.
Let’s take a look at these two common scenarios:
The Early Morning Gym Session:
You struggle to train in the evenings because by the time you finish work you feel shattered so you make the decision to starting going to the gym before work.
So you set your alarm for some ungodly hour of the morning, you have planned your morning out to the T, you are set to go….them the alarm goes off INSTANT SNOOZE.
The idea of staying in your warm bed hugely outweighs the prospect of rushing to the gym. Damn you Willpower!
The New Diet:
You want results and have heard that counting macro’s is really important like I don’t know how anyone lived without doing it before? So you work out or pay someone to tell you how many grams or calories of what foods you can have each day.
After some good planning, you know exactly what needs to go in each of your five meals (because 5 is better than three right?). It’s perfect….then life steps in. Sure maybe you last a few weeks, hell maybe even a month but eventually you don’t have all your meals ready and you don’t know how many grams of chicken you just ate and the “perfect” system fails.
Damn you motivation!
Truth be told these are not random examples or that of my clients but actually examples from my own little fitness journey. Sure it all sounded simple enough to start with but like anything in life, theory and application are two very different things.
So what do we blame?
Willpower. If only I made more willpower then everything would be fine!
How about motivation? I started off well if only I was more motivated and just stuck to it, all would be fine.
Well, I’m calling BS to both of them. That’s right I’m hitting that giant BS button to both willpower and motivation.
It’s not that I’m saying they are not important, it’s just that they are grossly misunderstood.
Let’s start with Willpower
What is Willpower?
Here are two textbook definitions of willpower:
- The strength of will to carry out one’s decisions, wishes, or plans.
- Control of one’s impulses and actions; determination; self-control.
Come on who doesn’t want a little more control over one’s impulses and actions! That means I could finally stop after just ONE cookie!
Over the years I have come across a few different ways to describe willpower. One being that of a renewable energy source, a battery that once used up needs recharging before you can use it again.
This would give merit to the idea of always missing your evening gym routine after a particularly busy and stressful day that drained your willpower reserves.
This is how I thought of willpower until I came across an even better analogy that just so happens to relate to fitness.
Think of your willpower like that of a muscle. The more you use it the more fatigued it will get. At this point it doesn’t sound much different to that of the battery but here is the big difference: what happens to a muscle if you keep lifting a particular weight? It gets STRONGER! What also happens if you try and lift a weight that’s too heavy for you (at that time)? You fail. Does that mean you are weak and will never be able to do it? Of course not, just at this moment it is too heavy a load for your muscle to handle.
Now here is the kicker. If you went to the gym and only lifted easy weights you wouldn’t see much improvement BUT if you pick a load that is heavy enough to challenge you but light enough that you can still lift THEN you get STRONGER. The same goes for your willpower.
The mistake I always made was picking too heavy a weight, I would get some great idea and throw myself into it but it was too much to handle early on. In other words, when I was fresh I might manage a few ugly forced reps but it wouldn’t last and instead of accepting that it was too heavy I would blame my lack of willpower
A Fresh Perspective
Take an honest look at your past failures* were you trying to do too much too soon? If so, why not apply the opposite rule.
If last time you tried too much, this time, I want you to do the complete opposite and start so small that it’s almost silly that you’re not already doing it.
- Instead of making 20 changes to your diet just make 1
- Instead of planning 5 super high-intensity gym sessions aim to go for a couple of 20-minute power walks.
If you are going to fail again do so in the complete opposite direction and see what you learn.
*Remember that failure is nothing more than feedback and in no way is it a measurement of you as a person.
Stay tuned for part 2 where I will share the truth about increasing motivation.
If you’re ready to take action but unsure of your next step book in for a Strategy Session Today