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6 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

6 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

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 March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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