5 techniques you can use to reduce the need for willpower

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 24 July 2018

Have you ever thought to yourself - this diet change would be so much easier if I had more willpower?

Well, here a few things you need to know about willpower, and how wishing for more is like wishing money grew on trees.

Willpower is not an all or nothing phenomenon. A lot of us think that if we have willpower we should be able to make the right decision all the time. This is not true.

We also think that willpower must be a genetic gift. Also not true.

Will power is a finite resource that you shouldn’t rely on to change behaviour.

Will power is controlled by our prefrontal cortex. As we make more and more decisions throughout the day we end up with decision fatigue and willpower is depleted. That's when autonomic behaviours kick in. These behaviours are controlled by the brainstem or our "lizard brain". This is the part of our brain focused on keeping us safe and avoiding any changes, regardless of whether they are good for us or not.

So if we shouldn't rely on willpower, what should we be doing if we want to make lasting changes in our diet, exercise routine, or any other healthy habit?

Here are 5 habit changing techniques to will help reduce your need for willpower:

  1. Mindfulness - too often we roll through life without even being aware of what we are doing. We are running on autopilot. Becoming mindful of what we are eating, how we are eating, how we are spending our time, and how we are spending our money can be very enlightening.
  2. Replace behaviours - replace your old behaviour with a new behaviour. For example if you always have a glass of wine (or two) before dinner, have a glass of water instead, but put it in your wine glass.
  3. Find a new set point - this is a new reference point for what is acceptable for you. Previously what might have been acceptable is eating out three times a week. Change that to once a week and see what happens.
  4. Set your environment up for success - make it easier to eat well by having the right foods available and the wrong foods unavailable. If you have had a food sensitivity test done, do a pantry purge for all the items that you should no longer be eating. Store food you want to eat more of in clear containers and foods you want to eat less of in solid ones. And keep the wine in the basement or the garage instead of in the kitchen. The more inconvenient it is to obtain something you shouldn't be eating, the less likely you will need willpower to not eat it.
  5. Join the right community - your community will change your belief system. Hang around the people who have the same belief system and habits that you want to have.

Now I would love to hear from you! Have you ever used the willpower excuse? What did you do to help change your behaviour? Leave a comment below and I'll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday!

One Reply to “5 techniques you can use to reduce the need for willpower”

papa bear

My wine is in the basement and it is not difficult to obtain.

One needs some pleasures in life.


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