A series of good habits is pretty much all it takes to foster a culture of success in all areas of your life.
To form a set of good habits all you need to do is adopt a couple of good habits at a time through repeated action. Don’t commit to adopting too many habits all in one go.That is more than the average person’s will power can handle. However, once a good habit is formed it gets easier and easier to build on that base to form more good habits.
Now, a lot of literature out there talks about how will power is limited, however, what you don’t often hear being discussed is that “the will power muscle” can be grown. The more you exercise your will power the more will power you gain.
In this article I aim to help you understand will power a little better so that you can use it to your advantage.My writing on will power is informed by several books that I have read including The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan as well as The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
Will Power Is Limited – What Does That Mean?
When you wake up in the morning you have a full tank of will power. Over the course of the day, every time you encounter a situationthat requires you to exercise control, that will power is used up. This means every time you encounter a situation you have less and less will power to deal with that situation.
Once you form certain habits or standard responses, those challenging circumstances cease to tax your will power. I’ll give you some examples that are very common in every day life.
Examples of Instances Where Exercise Will Power Is Used Up
You wake up in the morning and face the first challenge:Crunchy Nut Cornflakes or Oats
If you don’t particularly like oats but choose to eat them anyway because they are good for you then that decision uses up a bit of your limited will power for that day.
If you set a given standard that you’ll eat oats for breakfast everyday except Saturday you cease to use up any will power at breakfast because the decision of what to eat has been decided beforehand;you’ll eat oats at breakfast out of habit and you might even start to like them.
Challenge 2: Around 10 a.m. you feel hungry.
If someone offers you a biscuit or slice of cake you will take it. If you’ve developed the habit of always carrying fruit with you to snack on when mid-morning hunger hits then you’re equipped not to give in to sugary treats. Carrying fruit around with you is a good standard habit.
Every time you get annoyed or upset but manage to handle a situation without letting emotions get the better of you, you use up some will power.
In The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg he recounts a very interesting experiment. Two groups were invited to take part in a study:
- Group 1 were treated nicely by the experimenters and at the end were asked to give suggestions on improving the experiment etc.
- Group 2 were just told to do it; they were not told why they were doing the study nor were they welcomed to suggest improvements
After that, each group was asked to do a boring task. A series of numbers popped up on a computer and every time a 6 was followed by a 4 the participants were told to press a certain button. Interestingly, group 1 did well and managed to continue doing this rather mundane task for the entire 12 minutes whilst group 2 kept making errors and for the most part couldn’t do the experiment for the full 12 minutes.
The conclusion was group 2 had used up their will power in the first part of the experiment. However, because group 1 were made to feel like they were helping and were an integral part of the initial phase of the experiment their will power wasn’t used up by the time they were set in front of the computer.
To the extent that we feel in control of a situation(as group 1 were made to feel) we don’t use up will power.
Most people purchase whatever they want to buy if they have the money (or credit) and every time they stop themself from purchasing something their heart desiresthey use up some will power. If you adopt the standardthat you only go shopping for, say makeup and clothes, on a Sunday then every other time you see something nice in a street window you don’t purchase it on impulse because it’s not Sunday. By the time Sunday arrives you might decide you don’t want whatever it is that looked amazing in the week.
In conclusion, any situation that requires you to exercise self-control uses up your limited will power. If you set up some rules for dealing with these situations then you don’t have to think up a reaction every time; this will result in less usage of your will power. The better you get at managing your will power using a bank of good habits and pre-set standard responses, the less of it you will use up unnecessarily
To your success.