Sunday, January 1, 2012

Willpower Tips for your New Year’s Resolutions

What better time to learn a little about the new research on willpower?  Of course you’ve just made, are considering making or have rejected making your new year’s resolutions.  Time and again we learn that we don’t follow through, that it just makes us feel bad or, while it seemed like a good idea at the time, giving up chocolate may not be a make or break change in your life.

So here are a few tips from the new book, Willpower, by Baumeister and Tierney, to help you see it through this year.

1.  Willpower is like a muscle that can be strengthened.  In other words, practice will make it stronger.  So really, if at first you don’t succeed…You know the drill.  It really makes sense though.

2.  Willpower is like a muscle, so it can get tired.  Quite simply, don’t make too make resolutions.  Your willpower muscle will get tired and wimp out on one or more of them.  This is why alcoholics in recovery don’t need to go to bars (among other reasons), why it’s easier to quit smoking without another smoker in the house and why it’s very easy to resist the desserts when you don’t have any around.  Got kids?  Put the to-be-avoided foods out of sight.

3.  Willpower draws on our mental reserves which can be depleted in a variety of ways.  Making a lot of decisions depletes mental reserves.  Think about how you feel after spending a day shopping (just shoot me now) or a day hard at work that involves a lot of decisions.  Then someone asks you where you want to have dinner.  If you’re like most people, you feel like screaming when they repeatedly tell you it’s up to you.   They think they’re doing you a favor when, in fact, your mind is too tired to make one more decision.  Other things that deplete our mental reserves include not getting proper sleep and diet (yeah, I did go there again).

I know there’s a bit of a catch 22 here.  You exercise your willpower muscle to strengthen it, but you overwork it and instead of strengthening it, you fatigue it.  If you think about willpower being like any other muscle, you can do strengthening exercises, but do too much and you risk shut down or injury.   So exercise smart.  Ergo, just a couple of new year’s resolutions.

And don’t give up because you’ve failed at something in the past.  Perhaps this is your year to celebrate success!

New Year’s Day, U2

No comments: