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The Ultimate Trick for Starting a Healthy Habit Without Willpower

The Ultimate Trick for Starting a Healthy Habit Without Willpower

As you probably know, we all have a limited supply of willpower available to us – unfortunately, there seems to be an unlimited number of decisions to make each day. What should I eat for lunch? Should I go to bed now, or binge watch the rest of Supernatural? Should I work on my project or scroll through Facebook? And on and on…

How can we stop this avalanche of decisions from crushing us and conserve our existing willpower at the same time? Easy- pre-make some choices using implementation intentions.

What are implementation intentions?

Implementation intentions are simple instructions you write for yourself on what to do in a given situation. They are backed by tons of studies, including a few that show that their use leads to a more than 2X success rate!

They are usually written in an “If/Then” (or “When ____ happens/I will ____”) format, as in “If I want to sit down and watch TV when I get home in the evening, then I will wait 10 minutes before I do”. Then, you just read your intention at a strategic time (in the previous example, right before you leave work to go home would be a good time).

While you can use implementation intentions for specific, one-time events (“if I make a toast at the wedding, then I’ll make no mention of that wild trip to Vegas the groom and I went on”), they work extremely well for establishing healthy habits.

You can also strengthen an implementation intention by creating a second, interrelated one (see the alarm clock example below).

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Waiting for 10 minutes between impulse (I want to watch TV) and gratification (Yay! I’m watching TV!) is a great way to increase the size of your willpower reservoir.

Implementation intentions are similar to affirmations, but only superficially. For example, affirmations are usually visionary in nature providing direction. However, they also usually have no concrete plan in place for making it happen. Implementation intentions are more tactical and should be very specific and clear with what you should do when a situation arises. Personally, I use both: affirmations for the goal and direction, and implementation intentions for the specific methods and strategies.

Converting your goals into implementation intentions

The method for turning a regular goal into a much more effective implementation intention is very simple. Just figure out some concrete way you can work towards or achieve your goal and when and where you can do it. Here’s an example:

Goal: Exercise at least twice a week.

So, let’s say you have a gym membership and know you will have time in the evening on Mondays and Wednesdays to work out. In that case, you could structure your implementation intention like this: “If it is Monday or Wednesday at 8 p.m., then I will go to the gym and exercise for at least 20 minutes”.

Implementation Intentions in Action

Here’re a few examples of how you can use implementation intentions to achieve or work towards several common goals. Each includes the if/then statement to write and when to read the statement each day. Feel free to use these yourself, just modify it as necessary to fit your unique situation.

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Eating less

If/Then statement: “When I want to eat something, I will first put it on a plate and take a picture of it”.

When to read: First thing in the morning or before your first meal or snack.

This establishes the habit of taking note of everything you eat. Even if you never share your pics with anyone or look at them yourself, this practice has been shown to decrease the amount you consume and improve the quality of what you do eat. Present state awareness is a powerful thing.

Get up the first time your alarm clock sounds

If/Then statement: “If my alarm clock goes off in the morning, then I immediately get out of bed!” plus the related “If I want to hit the snooze button, then I will get out of bed immediately anyway!”

When to read: In the late evening or right before you go to sleep at night.

I use these on a daily basis myself. Since I started, I have yet to fail at getting up on time!

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Meditation

If/Then statement: “When I wake up each morning, I will sit still and meditate for at least five minutes”.

When to read: In the late evening or right before you go to sleep at night.

Meditation is one of those things that everyone knows is good for them, but few people stick to it over the long term. A lot of people might find it difficult to meditate even with implementation intentions. In that case, I would suggest looking into binaural beats, a type of sound that is proven (by numerous studies) to modify your brainwaves in a way that supports meditation.

Exercise

If/Then statement: “When I arrive at work in the morning, I will take the stairs instead of the elevator.”

When to read: In the morning before work.

Of course, this one only applies if you work in an office building (and not on the first floor). If you work too high up to feasibly take the stairs all the way up, get off several floors below yours and hoof it the rest of the way.

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These are just a few examples. Implementation intentions can be used for pretty much anything where you can specify a when, where and how. Just make sure that any implementation intentions you make are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The ones you really want to focus on here are specific and achievable. The rest of them usually fall into place by themselves due to the nature of implementation intentions.

Finally, a word of caution: if you suffer from socially prescribed perfectionism (you believe others have unrealistically high expectations for you), implementation intentions might not be good for you. A recent study found that this tool had a significant negative psychological impact on people in this group.

For everyone else, though, implementation intentions have been shown to increase goal attainment very significantly.

So, write your first implementation intention now, and save your willpower for the difficult, unexpected decisions that life throws at you! As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will”.

Featured photo credit: www.strengthoverego.com via strengthoverego.com

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Last Updated on July 10, 2019

30 Best Procrastination Quotes to Get You Back to Work

30 Best Procrastination Quotes to Get You Back to Work

What do your 3pm fridge raid and perfectly alphabetised bookshelf have in common?

You most likely did both of them when you should have been doing work.

Procrastination is one of the most human behaviours. We’re all guilty of putting off what we know is important from time to time, and it seems the more pressing the task at hand, the better we are at avoiding it.

Sure, it means that every time we have an important deadline we end up with a spotlessly clean house and a completely empty inbox, but the real work gets left until the very last minute and is finished in a frenzy of stress and caffeine.

But we can gain control over procrastination by noticing it as soon as possible and stopping it in its tracks. On the contrary, you know you have a bad habit when you’re aware you’re putting something off, and you continue avoiding it anyway.

To start you off with combating procrastination, here are a few quotes to get you in a motivated frame of mind, because if procrastination has any enemies, it’s motivation to work harder.

A Few Home Truths

    “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
    ― Mark Twain


    “It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”
    ― Leonardo da Vinci


    “Someday is not a day of the week.”
    ― Janet Dailey


    “Success is not obtained overnight. It comes in instalments; you get a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow until the whole package is given out. The day you procrastinate, you lose that day’s success.”
    ― Israelmore Ayivor


    “The man who waits to know everything is the man who never does anything.”
    ― Craig D. Lounsbrough


    “Procrastination is like going to a fancy restaurant and filling up on bread and not leaving enough room for dinner.”
    ― Richie Norton, The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live without Regret


    “Procrastination is the lazy cousin of fear. When we feel anxiety around an activity, we postpone it.”
    ― Noelle Hancock, My Year with Eleanor


    “Doing things at the last minute reminds us of the importance of doing things at the first minute.”
    ― Matshona Dhliwayo


    “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
    ― Abraham Lincoln


    “A day can really slip by when you’re deliberately avoiding what you’re supposed to do.”
    ― Bill Watterson, There’s Treasure Everywhere


    “By what right do I, who have wasted this day, make claims on tomorrow?”
    ― Alain-Fournier, Le Grand Meaulnes


    “If you want to get ahead in life, I’ve found that perhaps the most useless word in the world is “tomorrow.”
    ― José N. Harris


    Some Practical Advice

      “If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”
      ― Hilary Mantel


      “Thinking too much leads to paralysis by analysis. It’s important to think things through, but many use thinking as a means of avoiding action.”
      ― Robert Herjavec, The Will To Win: Leading, Competing, Succeeding


      “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”
      ― Pablo Picasso


      “It is only by working the rituals, that any significant degree of understanding can develop. If you wait until you are positive you understand all aspects of the ceremony before beginning to work, you will never begin to work.”
      ― Lon Milo DuQuette, The Magick of Aleister Crowley: A Handbook of the Rituals of Thelema


      “Do first what you don’t want to do most.”
      ― Clifford Cohen


      “How often do you find yourself saying, “In a minute”, “I’ll get to it” or “Tomorrow’s good enough” and every other possible excuse in the book? Compare it with how often you decide it’s got to be done, so let’s get on and do it! That should tell you just how serious your procrastinating problem really is.”
      ― Stephen Richards, The Secret of Getting Started: Strategies to Triumph over Procrastination


      “How to stop procrastinating starts with believing you can overcome procrastination.”
      ― Robert Moment, How to Stop Procrastinating


      “Never put things off…you will wake up and find them gone.”
      ― James Jones


      Some Tough Love

        “Do something instead of killing time. Because time is killing you.”
        ― Paulo Coelho, Aleph


        “If you take too long in deciding what to do with your life, you’ll find you’ve done it.”
        ― George Bernard Shaw


        “If you want to get ahead in life, I’ve found that perhaps the most useless word in the world is “tomorrow.”
        ― José N. Harris


        “What is deferred is not avoided.”
        ― Thomas More


        “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work”
        ― Chuck Close


        “If you always do what is easy and choose the path of least resistance, you never step outside your comfort zone. Great things don’t come from comfort zones.”
        ― Roy Bennett


        “Your ideas have legs and just as they run through your head, they could be running through someone else’s head and it’s just a matter of who gets to the finish line first. Nothing is new under the sun so act on your ideas.”― Sanjo Jendayi


        “You may not be punished for your procrastination, but for sure you will be punished by your procrastination.”
        ― Debasish Mridha


        When You Need Pulling out of Procrastination

          “Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.”
          ― Denis Waitley


          “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
          ― Karen Lamb


          Print these quotes out, stick them on the wall in front of your desk – do whatever it takes to remember why you shouldn’t be putting your work off, or getting distracted by a desire to rearrange your socks into colour order.

          It won’t be easy, but being aware of how detrimental procrastination is to your longer-term goals is the first step towards overcoming it.

          More Motivational Quotes

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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