Too many choices can keep us from the Excelerated Life™. When we are focused on living a life of flourishing and well-being and a life of meaning, purpose and service, then we do not have so many choices. We don’t make the same decisions again and again. We make them once and cut off other options.
This is a story about two people, the choices they face in a typical day, and the results of their decisions. With a question for you at the end.
The first person is Sally. Sally set her alarm for 5:00 AM so she can get a quick start to her day. When the alarm goes off at 5:00, Sally has a choice. She can either get up as she planned or she can decide to sleep a few more minutes. She decides to sleep a few more minutes and hits the snooze button. A couple more hits of the snooze button and now it’s 5:45. Sally gets up.
One reason she planned to get up at 5:00 AM was to go to an exercise class at the local gym. She has a plan to work out at least 4 days per week. Sally has a choice. She can either go to the exercise class – if she hurries – or she can skip today and go another day this week. She decides to exercise another day.
Motivation is fickle. Willpower is unreliable. Don’t depend on motivation and willpower for changing behaviors. Make the behavior easy to do. Then repeat to make it a habit.
A Lack Of Self Control?
When Melissa came to me for coaching, she identified several goals she wanted to work on. Her most important goal was to get her home office organized. This was the area that was most disruptive to her life and the one causing her the most stress.
Melissa shared that she could get one section of the place organized, say her desk top or the stacks of paper on her bookshelves, but within a few days, everything was chaos again. She wasted a lot of time looking for papers or other items she needed which caused undue stress.
“I guess I just lack the self-control to make myself do what I need to do,” she lamented. “I spend so much time and energy looking for articles I need, that it is impacting my life. It is hampering me from getting important tasks done yet I can’t keep myself motivated to keep things organized.”
Willpower is like a muscle, according to some research, and gets depleted with use over time. Newer research has not replicated this finding, however. Other researchers believe willpower may get depleted because we think it will be. This is at the heart of the willpower question.
Cookies And Radishes
It was a cruel and heartless experiment . . . at least for the hungry college students taking part. They were told not to eat anything for several hours prior to the experiment so they were hungry when they arrived at the lab.
The students were divided into three groups. Group 1 was given a plate of warm, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. And a plate of radishes. They were told they could have all the radishes they wanted, but they were not to touch the cookies.
Group 2 was given a plate of cookies and a plate of radishes and told they could eat all they wanted from either (or both) plates.
A rule of thumb is a type of heuristic that can help you perform desirable behaviors more consistently. Applying rules of thumb can also eliminate some mundane decisions, thereby conserving willpower.
Decision Making Short-Cuts
“Eat a fruit and a vegetable at every meal.” “Pay yourself first.” “Fill your gas tank when it reaches 1/2 full.”
These are “rules of thumb” – common sense guidelines that provide guidance in daily situations. They are short-cuts to decision making.
The phrase rule of thumb refers to “a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It refers to an easily learned and easily applied procedure or standard, based on practical experience rather than theory.” [Wikipedia]
Moral licensing gives you “permission” to do something “bad” after or because you’ve done something “good”. So don’t think of your actions as being “good” or “bad”. Instead, see yourself as being committed to your goal or to your self-improvement.
Good? or Bad?
Suppose you decide to exercise more. You plan to get up every morning and hit the gym. For three days, you’re there when the doors open. On the fourth day, you decide you need a rest and so you sleep in. Do you think that you’ve been “good” on the days you exercised and “bad” when you didn’t? Or suppose you intend to start eating a healthier diet. On Monday, you have a salad for lunch. On Tuesday, you have a salad for lunch. On Wednesday, someone brings doughnuts and you decide you deserve a treat for being “good” the last two days. So you eat a doughnut . . . maybe two. At lunch, you decide you’ve already blown your diet for the day so you order a double cheeseburger and fries.
Those who use willpower wisely don’t use it to fight temptation, they use willpower to avoid temptation. Instead of willpower defense, they play willpower offense.(1)
When I stepped on the scale and it hit 265, I decided it was time to do something about my weight. So I joined Weight Watchers.
The Wednesday evening sessions I attended had two leaders, Paul and Marlon, both of whom had successfully lost many pounds. Both were engaging and funny. And they both understood the ups and downs of weight loss. Marlon once told about going on a cruise and gaining 15 pounds in one week. And he was a Weight Watcher leader at the time!
“It’s not that you don’t know what to do, but rather that you don’t have the discipline to make yourself do what you should do, whether you feel like it or not.” ~ Brian Tracy
Your Chances For Parole May Vary
Pretend for a moment that you are a prisoner about to appear before a judge to request parole. (It’s a stretch I know, but use your imagination.) When would you want to go before the judge? First thing in the morning? Right before lunch? Middle of the afternoon? Last case of the day? Continue reading “How To Have Willpower When You Need It”
“There’s something magical about repeating the same positive habits every single day.” ~ SJ Scott
The “Magic Hours”
What do you do before breakfast? Hyrum Smith calls the early morning hours the “magic hours”, a block of uninterrupted time when you can concentrate on things beyond the normal urgency and routine of the day. Brian Tracy refers to this time as the Golden Hours — the first hours of the day which set the tone for the rest of the day. Continue reading “What To Do Before Breakfast”
Small, simple daily disciplines practiced each day become habits while also building up your willpower. That ‘s a huge benefit in a tiny package!
Self-regulation (or willpower) is one of the most important strengths to develop. [Miller 91] In fact, developing other strengths often depends on our practicing them when we don’t really want to. In other words, by using willpower. Continue reading “Small Simple Daily Disciplines”
Wearing a uniform is not about doing with less — it’s doing with more . . . more time, more money, more willpower, more peace of mind.
“A [person] is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Months ago, I adopted a uniform – a specific dress code or set of clothes that I wear each day. Of course, I’m not the first person to do this. One of the most famous uniform wearers is the late Steve Jobs, who was always seen in a black turtle neck, jeans and sneakers. (As a matter of fact, one of my friends began joking about my “Steve Jobs look”.) And there are a number of other people, famous and not so well-known, who have chosen their own personal uniform — Mark Zuckerburg, Albert Einstein, Johnny Cash to name a few. Continue reading “Why I Wear A Uniform”