Written by: Jenny Smith
We’re coming up to that time of year again where the tradition is to resolve to make the changes in our lives that we hope will enhance our experience. Research shows though that the vast majority of intentions and resolutions are given up on very early into the process and that long term change demands a much stronger commitment.
The missing ingredient between those that give up on their resolutions and those that see them through, is willpower. Willpower is the ability to know the key beliefs within your mind (your will) and to energise it through your action (power). There is a big difference between being strong willed and consciously developing your willpower.
You might well have heard people describing themselves as having strong or weak wills as if willpower was a fixed entity and that what we were born with was our lot. The more recent way of looking at will power, is that like many traits, it can be compared to a muscle in that can be built up through use and practice and similarly it is possible for it to wither from under-use.
So what is it that strengthens willpower?
The strongest factor is the purpose behind the change, or in other words what you hope to gain or become by making these shifts in your life. If you are not clear of your purpose, the chances of you sliding down the slippery slope of ‘give up land’ are highly increased.
Sometimes you will know you want to do something without fully understanding the reasons why it is so important to you. Initially there may well be a strong spur of energy and commitment, but even in this situation it is very advisable to spend some time asking ‘why’, so that when or if motivation starts to dwindle, the purpose can be brought into the forefront of your mind in order to support you to keep going.
A simple way to identify the reasons behind the goal is to repeat the statement to yourself again and again and see what endings naturally arise in your mind. Eg: ‘I want to lose weight because ‚Ä¶.’ or ‘I want to increase my fitness because…’
There are stages to making changes and it is common for people to go around a spiral shaped process where they start by making the decision to change, they then take action and they then come up against challenges which cause them to either commit further or to fall off the track. If you think about something that you’ve changed in your life, whether it’s a habit like smoking or an aspect of your life like your career, you might be able to see that the whole process comprised of several distinct phases, several of which repeated themselves.
Willpower is what keeps us going even when other bits of us are trying to talk us out of dieting or exercising! Rather than an aggressive controlling energy it can be a steady inner commitment to continue to live in ways which we fully believe will support our happiness.