Willpower – or “Won’t Power”

In my last post, I discussed how the choices we make affect our health.   After a crazy couple weeks of 7am meetings, late afternoon meetings, normal end of the month/beginning of the month workload, and a few dinners thrown in for good measure, I finally have a normal morning.  But yesterday it caught up with me a bit.

I haven’t missed a workout in the last month until the weekend.  I was doing some yard work and just sort of “tweaked” my back.  Then I had to mow the grass the next day, which led to back spasms that kept me up well past midnight and affected my sleep.  Of course, another 7am meeting followed, after which I received frustrating news about an employee resignation.  Then I had a late afternoon meeting.  The rest of the day, I did some relatively mentally strenuous data analysis on trying to quantify organizational financial performance around a specific type of work.

Exhausted, stopping to grab a six pack on the way home seemed like a good idea.   It was like I was on autopilot.   As if by divine providence, the beer I wanted and another great beer were on sale.  I had a few great beers last night, slept well, feel a little crappy today, but the back feels much better too.  I wasn’t a good husband last night either…just sort of watched tv and drank beer.

But I’ve done well on my fitness goals.  I’m down a little over 10 pounds in a month.  I’m at my lowest weight since early 2016, and overall I feel great.  But yesterday, I just feel like I ran out of energy to fight my urges.  But, I’m not down on myself.  I basically understand what happened.

There is an essay published by Dr. Frank Crane in  1919 titled Mule Power.  In it, he mentions only the strongest have great willpower.  But everyone has a stubborn streak.  He exhorts his readers to use their mule-like stubbornness to simply choose to do nothing, which is easier than doing the thing you don’t want to continue to do.  He calls it “Won’t Power”.

That’s all well and good, and I get a lot from his essays, but it’s not that simple.  There’s some physiological things going on in our bodies.  The lack of sleep, missing meals, and physical pain affected my ability to maintain my willpower.  Plus, i had done well, hit my first goal, so why not indulge?

The thing is, Willpower has a certain capacity each day.  Gary Keller likened it to your mobile phone in his book The One Thing.  If you let it fully recharge, you’ll get through a day, maybe several days if you don’t use it much.  But if you have one of those days when your on your phone all day, it needs to be plugged in to recharge at some point, or else it will become fully depleted and fail to work. And heavy mental work depletes the same reserves as willpower.

So yesterday, my willpower level finally hit that critical mark, and it needed to recharge.  And like many electronic devices, when willpower completely loses power, it goes back to default settings.   I wish my default was something else right now, but as an introvert who enjoys adult beverages, mindless tv and gaming by myself while enjoying beer or wine is part of my recharge process.   It is what it is.

This is exactly why it is important to find a routine that shakes up your habits and breaks the triggers.  What do you need to change to get enough sleep, to do the things that fulfill you and give you some recharge during the day?

So for me today, it was sleep in a bit, catch up on some reading, write a blog post, listen to some music.  Tonight we’ll go dancing.    Tomorrow I’ll take a half day to get some errands done, and do however much of my planned workout I can do in the afternoon. I probably need to start figuring out how to meditate as well.

So if you’re having trouble committing and sticking with a goal, examine your battery level.  Willpower is not infinite.  What is triggering your lack of compliance, and how can you more fully charge up your willpower reserves?

 

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