As we hurdle towards the end of the year and the chocolates start mounting up on our desks, the older parts of our evolutionary brain come under increasing pressure to focus on the long-term outcomes rather than the short term gratification.
Willpower is often thought of as a ‘have or have-not’, however researchers have shown that willpower is actually more like a muscle. Like any muscle, if you put it under too much strain for too long a period it begins to fatigue. Equally, like any good muscle, if you continue to strengthen it, it becomes able to handle more stress and strain for longer periods of time. So how do we apply this to chocolates on our desk and the fact that it’s nearly the holiday season...
Daytime fatigue - as willpower is like a muscle it's better in the morning. That’s why most people are more disciplined earlier on in the day. If you have an arduous task that you have been avoiding, try tackling it early in the morning rather than later in the day.
Willpower challenges - the more you strain your willpower muscle the more it's likely to give in. If you have a box of chocolates that you are staring at in between emails, the chances are that at any given time that your willpower is not focussed you might find yourself diving into take a cheeky bite.
Willpower training - the more you train it, the stronger it gets. It’s ok to have a piece of chocolate when you want to as long as it’s not going against your long-term plan. If you struggle with willpower try a timing technique. To train your willpower muscle simply set yourself a challenge. If you start to crave chocolate give yourself 1 minute before you go over to the box. Then give yourself another minute before you open the box. Spend one minute looking at the chocolates. As the days go by, increase it to two minutes and then longer and longer and slowly you will teach yourself willpower control.
It’s often tempting to think at this time of the year that you can forgive the healthy habits in December and correct them in January. Instead, why not try and test yourself in December and think of your behaviour in terms of damage control. Allow yourself some indulgence in December but maintain an element of control, there is of course a difference between indulgence and over indulgence. That way when January comes there isn’t a huge amount of work to do in order to get your back on your pathway to success.