Motivation can be fleeting at times. Willpower? Even worse. The other day this article found it’s way to my inbox. Hardy makes his point, that willpower doesn’t work, quite compelling. “According to psychological research, your willpower is like a muscle. It’s a finite resource that depletes with use.”
Well, about half of you are relieved. Thank goodness, all these years I’ve been trying this ‘willpower’ thing with very little success. The other half of you are probably raising an eyebrow: “If I don’t have willpower, then what?”
Actions. You have your actions and you can create momentum! Once you set yourself in motion, it’s easier to keep going. One healthy action can have a cascading effect throughout your day. If you exercise in the morning, you’ll fuel your body with nourishment rather than reach for sugar filled snacks to give you energy. When you’re on a healthy path, you want to stay on the path. This is not new information, most of us learned this in elementary school (recall Newton’s laws of motion?). The first law basically states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force. If your sedentary it’s easy to stay sedentary. If you’re active it’s easier to stay active. If you’re trying to make the leap from sedentary to active you need that force to jump start your routine. You need to take action.
Mel Robbins (creator of and writer of the book The 5 Second Rule) uses a simple trick to drive behavior change. It’s so simple you can change your life 5 seconds at a time. Whatever your goal is (wake up earlier, start an exercise routine, eat healthier, write a book, start a company, train for a sporting event), you’re likely thinking it to death. Maybe you’re frozen in an analytical whirlwind, making a pros and cons list, already thinking of all the ways you could potentially fail. So, you do nothing. The 5 Second Rule stirs you to action. Give it a go! Think of something you’ve been avoiding, don’t particularly want to do, or a habit you’d like to form. Now, count down from 5 and at 1 get up and do it. 5…4…3…2…1…!
What does this look like in action?
Say, you have a hard time getting to the gym. The whole event seems overwhelming. Try breaking it out one step at a time. Just drive to the gym. That’s all you have to do – drive there and park. Once you get there, just do 5 minutes of cardio to get warm. Just 5 minutes – do it, go, before you have time to think yourself out of it. OK – now you’re in the gym and you’re moving. The likelihood of your leaving after 5 minutes is pretty low. Generally after 5 minutes you’re starting to get into your groove.
No? That’s fine. Just do 5 more minutes.
Still no? Maybe today is not your day – if you went to the gym and did 10 minutes of exercise that is better than nothing and it’s your first step – propelling you into the habit.
In Jocko Willink’s book Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual, he coaches on the value of discipline. You can set yourself free from these ‘mind traps’ through habits and structure. It’s useful to take notice that we didn’t get here overnight – our lives are a series of tiny decisions that, each moment, formulate who we become. If we’re not careful it’s pretty easy to fall into a downward spiral of bad habits, unhealthy actions and negative self talk.
“We are defeated one tiny, seemingly insignificant surrender at a time that chips away at who we should really be. It isn’t that you wake up one day and decide that’s it: I am going to be weak. No. It is a slow incremental process. It chips away at our will-it chips away at our discipline.”
In his episode on the Tim Ferriss podcast he disagrees with the ‘willpower is a finite resource’ theory – but offers some great advice on how to get started. I loved his answers to these two very simply questions, both of which torture many of us in the contemplation stage.
“where do I start?”
“when should I start?”
If you need a call to action, here it is: I challenge you! Whether it’s trying the 5 Second Rule, calling on self discipline, or instilling some habits that propel you towards your goal – get that momentum going!
What goal are you setting for yourself? How will you set yourself in motion? We’d love to hear from you!