Several weeks ago I asked my freinds on Instagram and Facebook to tell me what was keeping them from reaching their health and fitness goals. I got tons of answers, but overwhelmingly the most common response was lack of willpower!
I think we can all relate to this struggle. I mean, most of know what we need to do to reach our goals right? But in moments of temptation we just throw those goals out the window. I know I can’t be the only one who has rationalized eating foods that I shouldn’t be eating or skipping a workout that I know I need to do - am I right??
The truth is, even if you don’t have health goals, you likely struggle with willpower in some area of your life. Maybe you are having trouble sticking to a budget, staying committed in a relationship, practicing patience with your children, quitting smoking - really the list could go on and on.
Regardless of which area (or - let’s be real areas) you are struggling in, my 5 steps to mastering willpower will help you reach your goals, but only if you use them. Each of these steps builds on the previous one (hence the word steps) So, if you hit a roadblock, keep going back until you smooth out the wrinkles - Ready? Let’s get to it shall we?
Step #1: Identify your goal. What is it you hope to accomplish? Where do you see yourself in 90 days?
I personally recommend always sticking to 30-90 day goals. While it's good to keep the big picture in mind, setting your goals too far in advance takes you out of the hot seat and leads to procrastination in my experience. I also recommend only focusing on one major area of change at a time. Don’t try to lose weight and stop smoking all at once. Pick one, then once you have a month or two under your belt in that area, feel free to add in another goal.
Step #2: Research your goal. What will it REALLY take to get there?
Whenever I take on a coaching client, one of the first things I help them with, is establishing a 30 day goal. More often than not, I hear things like ”I want to lose 20 pounds this month” or “I want a body like Britney Spears” (seriously though -- you guys are OBSESSED with Britney) While this isn’t completely impossible - most clients change their tune when I tell them what they will have to do to reach that goal. That celeb you want to look like probably spends several hours a day working out and sticks to a very strict diet that doesn’t allow room for occasional treats. And, losing 20 pounds in a month might be possible for you, but it's going to require some serious sacrifice and isn't likely to set you up on a sustainable path.
Spend some time researching your goal and what it will take to meet it. Then ask yourself if you are really willing to do what it will take. Setting unrealistic goals sets you up for failure and failure is the death of willpower, so set goals that are achievable for YOU. There is no shame is saying that you aren’t willing to work that hard. I mean of course I would love to look like Britney just as much as my clients - but I also want to live a life where I can have pizza and ice cream from time to time.
Step #3: Decide to do it.
This one sounds so simple but but in reality, this is probably the toughest step of all. It's hard because it's all about mastering your mindset and it's something only you can do. You must decide and commit to get started. We have all heard stories of people who have been sent to drug and alcohol rehab on court order or because they are facing some ultimatum. Their likelihood of success is far less than someone who checks themselves in on their own free will. The reason for this is simple. The person who has checked himself in has decided to make a change. Decision is powerful. Once you decide, there is no going back. You have declared your intentions to the universe and the universe expects you to hold good on your commitment.
Step #4: Put yourself on offense.
Make life a little easier on yourself and exercise willpower in the beginning when it’s still going strong. Is your goal to quit eating junk food? Well then remove junk food from your house. Is your goal to stop spending so much money? Maybe you should leave your credit cards at home. Trying to stay committed in your marriage? Maybe it's time to cut back on nights at the bar with your single girlfriends?
I can’t tell you how many times I work with clients who tell me they have no willpower, then come to find out -they have cabinets full of junk food at home (for their kids of course) Well let me tell you what -- these people have more willpower than I ever will! If I had that much junk in my house I wouldn’t be able to help myself, I would eat it. I know that this can be a touchy one. People hate to feel like they are depriving their kids. But I think that we all know, our kids really shouldn't be eating that way either. Talk with your kids and try to come up with some healthier snack that won't tempt you nearly as much (my kids favorites are air popped popcorn, apples or bananas with peanut butter, Greek yogurt or Daily Sunshine)
I can almost promise that the people you look up to, and think that they must have the strongest willpower - never have to use it, because they have their lives set up in a way that minimizes temptation.
Step #5: Fix problems before they arise
This step is all about being proactive. Identify what is triggering you to crave the unhealthy habits that you are trying to break and come up with other ways to cope. Most often I see people triggered by emotional situations, stress, boredom or social pressure.
For me, I want to eat when I am tired or bored. Since I already know this about myself, I know how to handle it when I feel it coming on. I have some caffeine, take a nap, read a book or polish my nails. I also have a crazy sweet tooth, so I try to always have healthy options to satisfy my sweet tooth on hand.
If emotional eating (or spending or smoking etc) is your vice, then come up with some other ways to cope. Maybe meditation, a hot bath or just some healthy snacks will be the answer. And for those of you who struggle to stick to your goals in social settings, try having a conversation with your friends about your goals so that they can help you stick to them and maybe plan activities that won't put you into tempting situations
So there you have it! I hope these steps help you reach your goals and master willpower!
As always I LOVE getting your feedback! Let me know your thoughts on this article as well as suggestions for topics you would like me to cover in the future by commenting below or dropping by my Instagram or Facebook page!