I don’t eat dairy – at least not when I’m wide awake. Because I’ve made a lifestyle choice to eliminate dairy from my diet, storing the ice cream sandwiches that my grandchildren love in the door of my freezer doesn’t faze me a bit. I can open up the freezer, see them in there and still choose the dairy-free popsicle stored beside it or the bags of frozen fruit when I want something sweet.
However, on two separate occasions now I’ve discovered that apparently my willpower isn’t as strong when I get out of bed to pee and, eyes half shut, sleepily wander into the kitchen. So, do I throw them away to avoid temptation? I could, but I’m sure that wouldn’t sit well with my grandchildren. I needed a plan that would not only work to keep me from snarfing down my grandchildren’s dessert, but for any other areas of my life where I needed to strengthen my self control.
Willpower is all about self control – resisting the urge to give in to impulses: ignoring the lure of candy/chips/sodas near the check-out counter; choosing to save money for a large goal, rather than give in to retail therapy; keeping your middle finger on the steering wheel rather than flip off the idiot that just cut you off; (oh, and refraining from calling someone an idiot 🙂 )
Here are five ways to strengthen your willpower:
- CONQUER TEMPTATIONS: Unhealthy Foods: Get rid of them! If throwing it away isn’t an option, hide them. My granddaughter helps me by hiding the dairy string cheese that I buy for her. I put those ice cream sandwiches in the back of my freezer where I can’t see them when I open the door. Spending: Leave your cash/credit card home: Now if you’ve memorized your credit card #, expiration date, AND three numbers on back like I have (ridiculous) then try scheduling your online spending and only spend during those times. To avoid buying high-priced snacks, drinks, meals during work, pack your lunch/snacks/thermos.
- COMMIT TO CHANGE: Look down the road to your future self: Who do you see? A healthier person? A new entrepreneur? A half-marathoner? Make a commitment to that version of you and clean up any debris laying on your pathway to get to that version of you. I made a lifestyle commitment not to maintain a plant-based lifestyle. That’s why I’m not even tempted to eat my grandchildren’s ice cream sandwiches when I’m fully conscious and thinking about my decision. Making a commitment to yourself makes it easier to maintain your self control.
- IDENTIFY YOUR REASONS: Your willpower needs more than just a half-hearted new year resolution to keep you away from that hunk of chocolate cake. WHY are you losing weight? WHY are you trying to improve your health? WHY do you want to run 13 miles? After you identify your reasons, make a list of every action you need to take in order to get you to your goal. It’s not enough to see myself crossing the finish line; I need to see myself on daily runs, cross-training with weights/yoga, and eating well. I need to make willpower a daily habit by actively performing the steps I need to reach my goals.
- DISTRACT YOURSELF: Distractions – either mental or physical – can be an excellent aid to strengthening willpower. After eating mayonnaise all my life until I was 50 and decided to transition from vegetarian to vegan, I struggled to control my mayo cravings. So I trained my mind to think of the white, creamy spread that I used to slather on bread and dunk in Kool-Aid (yep, I used to love mayonnaise that much) as disgusting. After awhile my thoughts of disgust when I looked at mayo totally overwhelmed my cravings for it. Distractions are also powerful tools when you’re mind is trying to talk you out of being disciplined. When I’m running and my mind starts focusing on how tired I am, I immediately start pushing the button on the Bluetooth in my ear – going from song to song – while still running, which focuses my mind on something enjoyable while I keep running to my stop destination.
- LIVE LIFE WITH INTENTION: Living life with intention means not just saying you want to start exercising but getting off the couch, joining a gym, buying a workout DVD or going for that run. It means buying an organizer or a $$$-store notebook and scheduling daily actions toward your goals. It means reading those books and not just adding them to your “to read” Goodreads list. It means hiring a trainer to jumpstart your weightlifting goals. I could go on and on. Living with intention is a daily habit that strengthens your self control with minimal stress. It’s about keeping your word to yourself.
It’s about turning your willpower woes into willpower wins.