Choose Your Path – Improving Your Will Power
We all struggle with certain aspects of our daily lives and one of the main reasons is because we have no will power. So if you are looking for some tips for improving your will power then read on and finally reach your goals!
Ready to start improving your will power?
Another New Year passed. Once again, more resolutions were made with determination. Yet once more, a few weeks, or months into the year, you have returned to your old patterns.
Are you weak-willed? Did you not try hard enough?
No. In fact, don’t beat yourself up over these things. It turns out, most people misunderstand how building new habits works. Common old beliefs are fallacies, and using them to guide you, won’t help much.
The first step is understanding!
Habits are activities that have moved beyond our thought processes and reside in the ganglia (nerves) in the brain. This means they are part of what we call muscle memory.
Like simply walking, they start out by employing a thinking process, and eventually become movement tasks without much thought. They are not a thought, they are a reaction. But what are they are a reaction to? With walking, it’s simple; we need to be somewhere else.
We don’t actually think about the walking, though. It’s a reaction to a need, and that need is our cue to walk.
As reactions, habits also need a cue. They are preceded by a cue, and usually followed by a reward, that reinforces itself more over time. Understanding the connection between cues, habits and rewards can help you develop new habits or even change habits that no longer serve you.
Developing the habit of exercise is a skill and the science behind habits can help us immensely.
We don’t have to rely on will power, and it’s not about a magic number of repetitions.
What does this mean with exercise?
When it comes to improving your will power, people who are successful in developing a healthy exercise habit have all developed a cue, or prompt, that eventually creates an automatic response. Try several cues to determine what will work for you.
Know that you will face challenges in getting to class or exercising on your own. Developing your main cue is the first step, but you can be armed with extra ideas in your back pocket for those extra hard days.
An exercise habit cue may be to sign up for a class, or to put your sneakers on upon waking, before you do anything else. A cue is something very simple and easy to do, but that will prompt further action, in this case, your exercise. Look to the Habit Cues list below for ideas of what might help you. Use these as a spring board for your own, creative ideas. You know what your own most common obstacles are.
Your cues are things that help you overcome them.
Know that you will have set backs and hard days. Plan ahead and expect them.
There will be days when any excuse will do: “it’s rainy, I don’t feel like driving there” or “it’s sunny, I don’t feel like being inside” and you simply do not feeling like going to class, or working out. These are the days when your pre determined “cues” will come in most handy.
Have weather options that you enjoy. If you feel the need to skip a class due to glorious weather, make a rule that you have to take a walk outside and enjoy that sunshine. If it’s raining, and you’re a jogger, keep in mind an inside activity that you enjoy. Now is a great time to take a Pilates or yoga class, as a compliment to your running regime.
A “rule” like this qualifies as a cue. Create rules to allow for those days that you need flexibility. Plan for these days, so they become a part of your healthy lifestyle, not a bump in the road or set back.
Studies show that people stick with exercise when they focus on the health benefits and how it makes them feel. These are rewards.
It’s also best to know your long term goals, and to determine specific action steps to help you reach them.
Create Your Path
This is a great tip for improving your will power! Goal X is your end point, but you have to determine the path you take to get there. So, goal X could include the breakdown weekly actions or habits of “1 yoga class, 1 dance class, and 3 home practice sessions or walks.” We understand these breakdowns in project management, cooking and crafts.
Jewelry artist Holly Wellington describes it in her jewelry making business as a goal specific lists, with individual small tasks to take you to the end goal. This same “step by step” process creation is used for fitness.
When you’re preparing your cue and en route to your chosen fitness activity, focus on the rewards you can get from it. Remember that these are more than just physical and they transcend the classroom.
Look at the Rewards list for benefits from specific forms of exercise that may be meaningful to you. Some people need a little more life tangible reinforcement. See the Secondary Rewards list for those.
A reward can also be something you give yourself. Self employed people have to use these sorts of tactics all the time, and we can learn from them. My photographer friend, Devon Rowland, keeps hand written check lists, and that simple checking off process is a satisfying feeling; a reward. I like to use a habit app.
That right swipe on Balance is a “small win,” a reward. Fitness inspiration is huge on social media for this very reason: it reminds people of the rewards of exercise. They’re not all about photos of slim, young bodies that look the same.
Check out The Yoga Center of Columbia’s feed for bright, positive and inclusive inspiration: https://www.instagram.com/columbiayoga/
Why is focusing on the rewards important when it comes to improving your will power? This is where rats in mazes help us understand the science. For these rats, in a study described in Charles Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit,” their cue was the sound of the maze door opening, their habit activity was getting through the maze, and their reward was chocolate. A rat’s brain waves light up when they come across their reward, as do the brain waves of a human.
They like their chocolate (like many of us). Over time, however, those same excited “reward” brain waves lit up at their cue, the sound of the maze door opening. It’s THIS reaction that we are seeking to attain.
Once your cue lights up that “reward” feeling, your habit is quite easy, and you even find you look forward to it, because it’s so associated with that reward feeling. There is no magic number to get there.
But, once you know the steps, it’s so much easier to follow the path. So, keep on at it folks!
New Years has passed, but your chances at reaching your goals are still within your reach.
- Have your clothes out the night before.
- Use a special bag to carry your class needs. Refill it immediately upon return home.
- Keep a bag in your car with an extra set of clothes for exercise or for after exercise.
- Create a notebook to keep track of your sessions.
- Use a phone app or calendar to remind you to set up your cue.
- Exchange numbers with an exercise buddy and call or text each other.
- Make a rule such as “I’m not allowed to go home between work and class.”
- Schedule this time into your week, either by making plans with a friend, putting it into your reminder calendar, signing up for a class, or all of the above!
- Have various weather appropriate clothing ready!
- Put your workout gear on before leaving your bedroom, the office or your preceding activity.
When it comes to the rewards associated with improving your will power, here are several you will reap in terms of your improved health:
Addresses back issues, posture, functional fitness, balance, coordination, hip and back pain, supports sport activities, posture and more.
Provides muscle strength and tone, increases bone density, makes every day life easier, addresses imbalances and promotes joint stability. Cardio benefits your heart!
Supports back health, makes work and activities more comfortable, provides injury prevention, pain relief and healing while assisting joint health.
Mind Body Awareness
Is accompanied by stress relief, postural awareness, happiness that comes from new learning and challenges, camaraderie in class, and a feeling of accomplishment. Many of the mind body exercises are also important in continued brain health as we age.
Will give you more endurance to do other things, and improve your over all health score and longevity.
- Chores that often cause aches and injuries become pain free. You can shovel snow without feeling it for days.
- Everyday activities, such as playing with children or carrying heavy items is more comfortable.
- All those numbers your doctor talks about are improved with exercise.
- You can create your own rewards when you keep up your weekly goals! New running shoes, anyone?
- You are learning a new skill and may make new friends!
- Trying new things is good brain exercise!
- Office job sitting becomes more comfortable.
- Yes, your clothing may fit better. It’s OK to be motivated by clothing!
- Sleep is improved with regular exercise.
- You will have more energy for all the other things you love to do.
So seriously, are you ready to start improving your will power? Then what are you waiting for?
It’s time to start improving your will power and reach your goals this year as you work towards a happier and healthier you (both mentally and physically).