Sometimes, it seems like half of being human is knowing what you have to do…and then doing something different, anyway. Unfortunately, the best of intentions frequently fall by the wayside under the pressures of everyday life.
It takes real willpower to walk past the biscuit stall without stopping, go to the gym two times a week or actually finishing the book you’ve gotten half-way through. More accurately, it takes willpower to do these things on a consistent basis, month after month, until you’ve actually achieved what you set out to do.
All too often, we start out going strong but end up with the equivalent of an expensive treadmill glaring at us as it gathers dust in the sitting room. The good news is that willpower isn’t just a personal characteristic but also a set of techniques and skills that can be learned.
Set Clear, Quantifiable and Achievable Goals
It may well be your dream to have the body of a supermodel. If you currently weigh 30 stone, though, it makes sense to pursue some intermediate objective first.
Writing down your goal is an excellent first step towards achieving it, as it forces you to really define what it is you want to work toward. You can then place it somewhere where you’ll see it every day, and it certainly helps if it’s something you can measure. Why? So you can track your progress, of course, and reinforce the idea that you’re approaching your destination bit by bit.
Ask: “What Can I Do, Today, to Get Closer to My Goal?”
Small steps are not only easier to work towards, but each little achievement will strengthen your resolve and give you the energy to tackle the next one. If you intend to change your diet, for instance, cutting out all the rubbish in one stroke will probably be impossible, but you can easily add one healthy thing to your typical breakfast. Holding on to these gains and gradually adding more such elements to your routine very quickly adds up to significant life changes.
If you happen to be tempted, a good technique is to wait only 15 minutes before indulging. This allows you to think twice, summon your reserves of willpower and (sometimes) decide that your long-term aims really do outweigh your short-term pleasure.
Get a Cheerleader
Everything is twice as hard when done alone. To avoid giving up, it’s highly desirable to find someone with the same goals and someone who’s in roughly the same situation as you are – and then promise not to let the other quit. There will undoubtedly be bad times ahead, and having a partner in crime or at least a shoulder to cry on will help prevent you from discarding your initial resolution altogether.
While the support of family and friends can be invaluable, some goals are too personal to share even with those closest to you. If you find this to be the case, anonymous online psychologists may be your best bet. Talking to one of these professionals will give you the freedom to discuss your progress and any surrounding issues without having to fear embarrassment.