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6 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

6 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals
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Some of the most rewarding and exhilarating times in life are when you achieve something you set out to do, right? You feel on top of the world! The opposite is also true: some of the most testing and depressing times in life are when you really want to have or do something, but you can’t muster up the willpower in that moment to do what you want.

What is willpower anyway, and what makes you have more or less of it? Willpower is, to put it simply, a combination of self-discipline and control over yourself and your behaviour. You especially need more willpower at those times when you exert yourself to do something that doesn’t come easily.

If you have ever thought that you don’t have willpower, the good news is that you were wrong. Willpower is not a gene, it works like a muscle. And the more you practice it, the more you will have. But like any muscle building, you also have to be careful not to overdo it and wear yourself out.

Here are the top six willpower hacks to help you achieve your goals.

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1. Boost your energy supply

Studies have shown that exerting your willpower reduces your energy and blood glucose levels. Replenishing glucose is key to having more willpower because willpower is a mental muscle that is directed by glucose levels. When your sugar levels in your blood are low, you will most likely find it more difficult to control your urges.

So, the better the food that you eat, the more willpower you will feel. Leading professors and health psychologists suggest the following for a quick boost. Eating any foods that are naturally high in sugar will give you the boost you need, so carrots, raisins, almonds, or apples, for example, will fuel your brain. Also, drinking lemonade will give you a quick glucose hit without the caffeine of other sodas.

2. Reduce the amount of decision making

You already know that willpower gets depleted the more you need to practice self-control. Did you also know that making decisions uses up your self-control? In other words, the more decisions you make in a day, the lower the self-control you will feel by the end of the day.

If you want to strengthen your willpower muscle, start planning ahead more often and try to decrease the number of decisions you make on a daily basis. If you are running around like a headless chicken all day making decisions, you are not going to have a lot of willpower left by the end of the day. An alternative is to start brain-dumping, taking your main thoughts and concerns out of your head and getting them onto paper. Those thoughts are taking up energy that can be better used elsewhere.

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3. Finding a connection in the moment

Think back to the last time you struggled to muster up the willpower to do something, whether it was avoiding the delicious donut in the bakery on your way to work, or finding the energy to go to the gym. What tends to happen in those moments is that you focus only on that moment and subconsciously disconnect the intention from the overall goal or value. The more disconnected you feel from what you are doing now and what you want in the future, the harder it will be to take action.

Always keep top of mind what is most important to you and connect what you are doing now to the future. Your ‘future-self’ will be so thankful for it. Keep focused on how this will benefit you in the future if you can keep pushing forward at the hardest times.

4. Inhibit the ‘pleasure seeking’ part of your brain

You have a very strong part of your brain that is constantly seeking pleasure and it never gets tired. This is actually why we procrastinate at a very ‘basic’ level: it is normal. However, this doesn’t always serve us, of course. As a result, it doesn’t make sense to go to a bakery and have a coffee when you are trying to avoid the pastries.

Don’t make things harder for yourself, make them easier! Your brain is using precious energy in that moment fighting those temptations, and it’s depleting your willpower. Don’t try to ignore or block out distractions, rather aim to eliminate them. Whether it’s at work when you need to focus more or in your personal life, make things easier for yourself if you can.

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5. Don’t be so hard on yourself (yes, it makes it worse)

Thing you can expect to face when you embark on any type of change are, of course, challenges and hard times. It doesn’t make sense to think that change is going to be an effortless and easy ride, or that if you struggle at times then there is something wrong with you.

Ironically, we expect things to be easy and when they aren’t, a lot of negative self-talk usually follows. When you feel bad about yourself and guilty because you didn’t follow through on your intention, research shows that you will almost certainly go back and do what you didn’t want to do.

On the other hand, when you are kinder to yourself and you show more self-compassion, you give yourself more motivation to keep going. This happens because you are talking to the part of you who wants to change, and not that part of you who feels like you can’t.

6. Strong habits means stronger willpower

Another great way to strengthen your willpower muscle is to start doing simple, challenging exercises more often by giving yourself small goals throughout the day. Let’s imagine you are at the gym and you have done 50 sit-ups. Push yourself to do one or two extra. It’s a small challenge, but it builds more discipline, not to mention confidence!

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Think about your daily life at home. How about putting away those clothes on the floor or doing the dishes before you go to bed? They are small actions, but ones which in due course make your willpower muscle stronger.

If you know that you could do with a little more willpower in your days, start by employing these six top willpower hacks today and you will achieve far more in a few months than you have in years.

 

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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