3 Simple Ways to Increase Your Willpower

willpowerIt’s the end of a long day at the office. A colleague asks if you want to grab a beer. When you left the house this morning you planned to go to the gym on the way home. You are trying to keep  the momentum going on your new exercise program. But before you know it, you are sitting on a barstool.

What happened to your willpower?

Whether you are making New Year’s resolutions in January, starting a new exercise regime in May or tackling chronic procrastination in October, you will need willpower to create change and accomplish your goals.

Research has taught us that willpower is like a muscle. It weakens and gets depleted with over use. Fortunately, it also can be nourished and strengthened. Here are 3 straightforward strategies to help keep your willpower fit:

1) Eat

Our brain produces an estimated 70,000 thoughts a day. It weighs in at about three pounds – roughly 2% of the average adult’s body weight. Yet, constantly at work, it consumes 60% of the body’s glucose or energy.  When our brains are depleted, overworked and undernourished, decision fatigue occurs, compromising our ability to make quality decisions. And compromising our willpower.

Tens of 1000’s of decisions get made between meals. Our brain gets hungry and sluggish. Saying “no” to a beer and “yes” to the gym isn’t easy hours after lunch.

Simple: eat healthy snacks regularly.

2) Switch Hands

One of the coolest things scientists are learning about willpower is that when we strengthen our willpower in one area it grows in other areas of our life. Better still, simple activities like using our non-dominant hand or noticing our posture can improve our overall willpower.

Simple: pick 2 routine tasks – emptying the dishwasher, unpacking the groceries, sorting the laundry – to do with your non-dominant hand.

3) Daydream

Routines and habits occur as the result of well-established neuropathways. When we start practicing new behaviors and developing new habits, we have to establish new neuropathways. More robust neuropathways are less susceptible to depleted reserves of willpower. So we need to “build up” those new neuropathways.

Fortunately, and amazingly, it’s easy to “fool” our brain. Our brain fires along the same neuropathway whether we have an actual experience or we imagine having that experience. In both cases, we “build up” the same neuropathway.

Simple:  Visualize doing your new or preferred behavior – working out at the gym, effortlessly saying “no” to the beer, checking everything off the to-do list.  (Your brain won’t know the difference.) Repeat often.

Now, go grab a snack. Eat it with your non-dominate hand and visualize heading to the gym. It will make it easier to actually get there.