How to Improve your Willpower

Did you know that 80% of New Year's Resolutions are given up by February? Did you make any resolutions, set any goals, or decide to try doing anything differently? Have you kept it going? Most people will cite willpower, or lack thereof, as the main reason for giving up on goals and resolutions. So how can we improve our chances of succeeding in making changes?


1. Habit

Did you know that habits and goals are stored differently in our brains? The part of the brain that is responsible for converting goals into habits is called the orbitofrontal cortex, which sits just above your eye sockets!


So, it takes 21 days to make a habit, right? Wrong. According to Health Psychologists at University College London, it actually takes more than 2 months before a behaviour becomes automatic - more specifically, it takes an average of 66 days. The results of the study actually varied from between 18 days to 254 days for a new behaviour to become a habit!


The best way to enable a new behaviour to become a habit is consistency. Consistency is key. And the best way to be consistent is to integrate this new behaviour into your daily routine. Tie this new behaviour to a particular time or context. Perhaps your goal was to drink more water - you could get yourself a water bottle for your desk and maybe even set reminders on your phone to drink more water.


2. Change your Environment

Without even realising it, our brain makes connections and associations between the places that we are and the things that we are doing, seeing, smelling, etc. Have you ever been back to a

childhood holiday destination and immediately remembered the dessert that you ate 20 years ago?


Anyway, sometimes the places that we are have connotations without us even realising. If your goal was to set up a side business from home or to get started on that book that you want to write, have a think about where you sit to work. Is your chosen spot associated with watching TV, eating dinner, socialising with friends? Perhaps going to the library would be better or setting up a separate area in the house.


3. Take advantage of Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is heavily involved in the motivational component of behaviour. When dopamine is released, we feel pleasure, and so whatever activity or behaviour we were doing when dopamine was released, or that caused the dopamine to be released, is more likely to be repeated.


Set yourself smaller goals, or sub-goals, so that you are able to have small achievements more frequently. Being able to tick a job off your to-do list or regularly fill in your habit tracker will release dopamine and therefore solidify this behaviour as worth repeating.


Something that has mixed opinions is telling other people of your goals. Some research says that it will increase your motivation as it somehow holds you accountable to reaching your goal, however some research also says that telling others of your goal gives you a premature release of dopamine, therefore allowing you to feel accomplished without actually working on your goal.


4. Find your pattern

When do you have the most energy? in the morning or in the evening?


Research shows that we have more willpower in the morning and that it lessens as the day goes on. So, if your goal is to exercise more frequently, try to squeeze that workout in early in the morning. If your resolution was to write more, try waking up 30 minutes earlier and getting pen to paper before you start your day. As the days progresses, there are likely to be more and more distractions, and more pulls on your time and attention.


5. Plan for setbacks

Life never runs smoothly, and if it does then cherish that feeling. It is important to be aware of the fact that setbacks are very likely to happen, but that they shouldn't stop you. Setbacks are bumps in the road, not roadblocks.


For more information on dealing with setbacks, follow this link.


6. Remember why your Reasons

Strip back to basics and remember your reason why. Why did you set yourself this goal? What did you want to achieve? What did you want to feel? Look at how far you have come already.


If you are still feeling unmotivated, it is very likely that your reason why isn't big enough. Dig deeper, find something bigger, something that means more to you. Perhaps you goal was to get fit and your reason why to because of a social event that you had coming up, but you were still not feeling motivated.


Dig deeper, perhaps you want to get fit so that you can run around with your kids, perhaps it's because you want to feel more confident, perhaps it is because of health reasons. Whatever it is, just make sure it really motivates you to get going.


Perhaps your goal was to start a business. Why did you want to do that? Was it to have more money? Why do you want more money? Was it to have more freedom? Why do you want more freedom? What are you going to do with your freedom? What are you going to do with more money? Dig deeper!


As always, if you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at amylaunder.counselling@gmail.com

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