Having a lot of willpower is a good thing. Some of us seem to have more of it than others, but all of us struggle from time to time with not having enough.
Sure, you can get better at sticking to your guns and reaching your goals with practice and discipline, but if that’s really all it took, we’d all be skinny, fit, and in good financial shape. That’s not how the world works, though, and we all struggle with finding the willpower to reach our long-term goals.
Thankfully there’s a second strategy and skill set that’s just as important as willpower. It’s creating positive habits and routines. Here’s how this works and what it has to do with willpower.
Let’s say you want to make a positive change in your life. It doesn’t matter what that is. It could be to read more non-fiction books so you can learn more and become better at what you do. Or it could be to meditate in the mornings to combat stress.
In the beginning, it takes a lot of willpower to make yourself read a few pages or go through 15 minutes of morning meditations. If you use your willpower wisely and use it to create a habit, it becomes easier and easier to make this happen every morning.
If you can stay faithful to this effort for a few weeks, your new morning task will become a habit and part of your overall morning routine. At that point, it won’t take willpower anymore. Just like you don’t need to remind yourself to brush your teeth every day.
Willpower and habits work hand in hand. It’s important that you pay attention to both and use them synergistically. Use your willpower to create new habits one at a time. Once that new behavior has become a real habit, you can focus on the next one.
Going back to our earlier examples of reading and meditating more, here is a possible action plan you could try:
Start to spend the first half hour of your morning reading a non-fiction book. Get up, fix your coffee, get comfortable in your favorite chair or spot on the couch. Make sure your book is waiting for you there, and that you have reading glasses and light to read by if needed. Add a fun pillow or throw to create a cozy reading spot that you look forward to using. Then start to establish the habit by using your willpower to make it happen every single morning come rain or shine.
Stick with this new routine until it has become something you no longer have to think about completing. For most of us, this takes anywhere from one to three months. Stick with it until it’s just what you do in the morning. Then start adding the morning meditations to the mix using the same strategy of exercising willpower until it has become a real habit.