Guest Blog: Tom Jenkins – The Right Way to Think about Willpower in 2020
It sounds great. Doesn’t it? You’re going to make a resolution to take your business or life to the next level and this is going to be the year you stick with it. You tell yourself over and over, “2020 will be the year I buckle down and make it happen.”
Believe it or not, this is a recipe for resolution disaster. If you make a resolution just because it’s tradition you’re setting yourself up for failure.
80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. Goals to make more money, lose weight, or double sales don’t fail because you have no willpower or you didn’t want it bad enough. They fail because randomly setting a goal and trying to force yourself to buckle down and do what you need to do is a terrible approach.
It takes an understanding of psychology and biology to give yourself the best chance of reaching a challenging goal.
The Right Way to Think about Willpower
Willpower is not about using the brute strength of your mind to turn into a robot focused only on accomplishing one thing.
Believe it or not, willpower works very much like a muscle. Before you take on a big goal, you need to strengthen your willpower muscle and give it the fuel it needs.
To whip your willpower into shape, you first need to find out just how strong your willpower muscle is.
When thinking about how strong your willpower is, be realistic. There are many studies out there showing that folks who think they have the strongest willpower are often the first to give in or fall short.
Let’s take a moment to make sure we’re all on the same page. Being realistic with your willpower does not mean you should beat yourself up by focusing on every time you came up short on a goal.
The trick is to be realistic but kind to yourself. What we say about ourselves shapes the way we think and the actions we take. If you continually tell yourself you are not good at something you will perform poorly.
Study after study shows what we say to ourselves has a direct impact on what happens in our life.
It’s best to be aware of your challenges, but still, speak to yourself in a kind and gentle manner.
If you’ve discovered your willpower muscle is a little out of shape, don’t give up. Willpower is controlled by the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Like any other muscle willpower can be built up with some simple exercises.
Boost Your Willpower by Putting it to Work
One of the best ways to build your willpower is by creating small, but routine habits.
A keystone habit is a habit that causes you to feel successful and that success flows over into other aspects of our life.
If you commit to the routine of going to the gym even once or twice a week, you may realize that it’s easier for you to stay organized or you no longer spend hours on YouTube procrastinating with cat videos.
Developing the routine of going to the gym is a keystone habit that will likely cause you to be more disciplined and focused in other areas of your life.
Prayer, Meditation, or Quiet Time
Setting aside five minutes every day to pray, meditate, or just reflect peacefully before you start your day or take on a new challenge can help you make your willpower muscle bigger and stronger.
Even if you just take a few minutes to reflect before a big meeting you should notice a difference in your focus and performance.
Knockout Your Biggest Willpower Challenges Early
Willpower aficionado, Roy Baumeister believes willpower is a limited resource, and for most people it is typically at its highest point early in the day.
As you go through your day, try to pay attention to when your energy and willpower are at their highest points. You may find certain times of the day work better for accomplishing certain tasks. Use this willpower cheat to tackle the toughest tasks on your to do list.
To-Do List Done Right
The to-do list is a simple and incredibly helpful tool. But, most people wind up shooting their productivity in the foot because they take a completely wrong approach when creating a to-do list.
There is a natural tendency to dump everything we feel like we need to get done onto a to-do list. Even though, it may make you feel better to write down everything you need to do this is actually the exact opposite of what you should be doing.
A to-do list done right involves asking yourself one question. “If I could only get one thing done today what should it be?” Add this item to your list. If you will realistically have enough time and energy when you’re done with this task ask yourself the question again.
Keep going until you have a realistic to-do list made up of the most important activities in your life.
Be honest with yourself. Be realistic about what you have the time and energy to accomplish. Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.
Put a Time Limit on Tasks
If You’re Trying to Tackle a big Project that can’t be completed in one sitting break it down into manageable chunks or give yourself a time limit for each part of the project.
Let’s say, you’re trying to paint your house. There’s almost no way you can pick the whole house in one go-round. The best way to put a project this big on your to-do list is to tell yourself you are going to finish painting one room or you will paint for an hour.
Having a definite end to the items on your to-do list allows you the chance to finish your day successfully.
Proper Sleep and a Healthy Diet
The quality of our sleep and what we eat is literally what fuels our brain. You wouldn’t try to drive across the country in a worn-out car with an empty gas tank. You need to take the same approach when fueling up your brain and body to conquer the challenges of your day.
Check out this list of 10 everyday foods that will help you keep your willpower reserves on full.
We live in a busy world, and most of us seem to be getting busier by the day. As we try to cram more into each day, it can be tempting to skip out on sleeping. This would be a big willpower mistake. Study after study has shown that lack of sleep and low quality sleep will crush your willpower and overall health.
In general, it’s a good idea to try and get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. But, if you feel rundown or you find yourself wondering if you’re giving enough rest, here are some basic rules you might want to follow.
Have you had less than six hours of sleep in a 24 hour period?
- Did you get less than 12 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours?
- Have you been up for longer than you have slept in the past two days? (You’ve been up for 16 hours but you’ve only slept for 7 hours in the past two days)
- These are just rules-of-thumb. But, these three can give you a quick idea of whether you’re getting enough of sleep or not.
There is no magic bullet to magically turn the life you have into the life you want. But there are small things we can get in the habit of doing to increase our willpower and help us build the life we deserve.
Written By: Tom Jenkins