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The myth of willpower

June 21, 2013 - Psychology

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LighterLife client, author and agony aunt Caroline Buchanan shows us how to stop making excuses and take affirmative action.

Let me tell you something exciting: willpower is a myth.

Many people find it baffling that they can be extremely determined in some areas of their life and passive in others. And they interpret this passivity as a failure to summon up willpower. But willpower is not something that can be summoned up; it is an illusion.

The difference between thinking, ‘I know I ought to but it’s just so hard’ and ‘I’m going to do this and nothing’s going to stop me’? is simply in the decision-making.

Settled decisions are much easier to make and include things such as: ‘Should I treat myself for all that hard work?’ or ‘I will go for that job because I am so right for it’… They’re the decisions that you feel comfortable making because you know they’re right for you.The problem lies in the decisions that you find more challenging, or even worse, are ambivalent to make. The trick is in transforming them into more settled decisions, and here’s how:

Embrace change

We all have the power within us to make a change, but you have to choose to make that change and stick to your decision. Here are some key things you’ll need to do to be successful.

  1. Make a decision: Settling on a decision is so powerful. It will help you take the first big step towards flipping the feeling of ‘I know I ought to’ into ‘I’m going to do this now come what may’.
  2. Commit to change: When we feel ambivalent about a project we are far more likely to either abandon it altogether or put it on the back burner. You will probably revisit the dilemma frequently, each time telling yourself ‘I know I ought to,’ but still getting nowhere. More energy wasted. As the saying goes, if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you always get. Making a settled decision to do something, even if we don’t like it, will lead us to knowing we’ve done the right thing.
  3. ‘Unlearn’ those self-sabotaging thoughts: You might really want to lose weight, knowing you’ll be healthier, slimmer and fitter as a result, but then self-sabotage creeps in. ‘I’ve done this a thousand times – it doesn’t work’ or ‘I’ll start next Monday’ or ‘It’s not fair – I have such a slow metabolism.’ Remind yourself of the benefits of positive change. Look back and congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come and reward yourself. Most of all, be aware of your self-sabotaging side and don’t let it take over.

Discover how others have made settled decisions about their weight-loss goals by visiting your local LighterLife Group centre – go on take affirmative action today!