Willpower is an incredibly deceptive little fucker. It appears to work so effectively a good portion of the time, but then it always seems to fail miserably when we need it the most. Ever wonder why at times it’s so remarkably reliable to count on, and then within mere hours so deeply unfaithful?
It’s because willpower works similarly to a muscle – the more you use it the stronger it gets – but just like a muscle it can become drained and fatigued with overuse. Even the act of repeated decision making during a day can have a significant impact on how quickly one experiences willpower fatigue. In addition, states of low blood sugar mean your brain will have less fuel to power it – a clue to why starving oneself is so closely intertwined with bouts of binging.
Willpower is often your primary defence in the face of temptations, making this one of the reasons why addictions appear to be so laborious to overcome. The more you desire something or someone, the more often and the more intensely you use willpower to avoid succumbing to it, and the quicker you will use up stores. Making it much more likely you will be left standing completely defenceless in the face of your seductress.
Sugar was my seductress, and I can say with certainty that I know that I am definitely not alone.
If you are one of the countless people who knows how important it is to eat clean and avoid junk food, but you can’t actually make good decisions when it comes to your meal plan for any significant period of time, then you are highly likely a victim of repeated willpower fatigue. If you, like so many others, have ever broken a promise to yourself about adopting a healthier lifestyle – or if you perhaps have a habit of binging on something you’ve repeatedly vowed to quit – then you now know the culprit.
Learning this was pivotal in my wellness journey, because in order to effectively control anything you need to know how it works, and governing our desires work no differently than anything else.
How does one escape from this destructive maze?
The answer is to harvest a greater desire that not only trumps the old one in how much we want it, but it must also conflict considerable with the old goal or addiction that you have become a defenceless prisoner to – the trick is to no longer have a longing for the old habit. If you are using willpower to avoid something, then that’s a great indicator that you still have a longing for it, and perhaps you haven’t yet linked a greater goal to put down the old one for. You can understand why it can’t just be any old goal, it needs to be an inner burning desire from within you that holds more weight than any other desire you’ve had in the past. It’s almost a cruel joke that what often dictates our desires, is what we perceived to be denied of in the past.
It doesn’t work if you try injecting a new goal that is actually someone else’s desire for you, or someone else’s desire or habit you have inflicted upon yourself. It is important that it be for you, and an innate desire that motivates you without outside influence – there needs to be a constant state, and we all know that we are the only guaranteed constant thing in our own lives.
We all have these inner burning desires, but too often we don’t believe we deserve them or we have fear holding us back from going after them, maybe we feel incapable of obtaining what we really want. Sometimes we can’t even admit that we even want them out of fear of failure or rejection. Many factors can lead us to bury these desires, making more room for external addictions.
I know it’s easier said than done, but examining who you are and what you really want in your life, and what you feel you deserve for yourself – and then actually taking steps to go after it – may very well be the only way out of the maze.
It was this piece of the puzzle that really helped me the most and I hope it works similarly for you. It has been examining this piece that made me realise how paramount it is to our own personal reality that we really examine ourselves and lead me to understand how important it really is to “know thyself”.
In the next following posts we will cover topics on methods to better know thyself, and a few other factors you need to know about the brain and how it relates to emotional eating and food addictions, so stay tuned.
Sending love from Sydney.
P.S. You all know how much I love feedback, so don’t be afraid to leave a comment and let me know how you felt about this post.
2 thoughts on “The Deal With Willpower”
Discipline = Freedom.
It’s been over 18 months since I went on a high fat diet – and it gave me the freedom to make more choices throughout the day with less of the cravings.
I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t; and who I was back then – 30kg heavier, lower bone density, easily succumbing to mental and physical fatigue – an armchair watcher instead of the go-getter-lets-go-do-it-better kind of guy I always wanted to be.
Don’t give up. Don’t make your first failure your only failure. Don’t quit before you start. Don’t treat the first stumble as the straw that broke the camels back.
Pick yourself back up, downplay that slip-up that you made when you had that cookie for lunch – you’ll do better next time and you’ll make those slip ups fewer and farther between until you reach your goals. And you will reach your goals, every day, every hour, every minute, every second is when your that one step closer to your goal. Life is not a montage. You’ve lived it. You know you have to grind it out each day. Superheros aren’t born of a 30 second supercut with rock music blaring in the background. Superheros have to put in work. You will put in work until your the super hero of your life.