“If you want to make any permanent change in your life, willpower won’t get you there.” – Benjamin P. Hardy
Willpower won’t help you quit unhealthy habits.
Yet, here we are. Trying desperately time and time again to exercise our willpower to make positive changes.
Sure, the change may last for awhile, but over the longterm willpower will fail you.
Why willpower doesn’t work
Willpower wanes over time.
We say no to the office cake, get salad instead of fries at lunch and even choose a skinny latte but then 10 p.m. hits and so do the munchies. You find yourself reaching for that bag of chips and maybe a soda to go with it.
Still, your lack of willpower isn’t the reason why you can’t lose that last 10 pounds. This is.
You refuse to see the truth
It’s easy to think that maybe your unhealthy isn’t that bad.
I was so convinced my sugar habits weren’t harming me that I refused to step on a scale. When I finally did, I was shocked to discover I had gained back the 10 pounds I lost last summer.
Believe it or not, those unhealthy snacks you enjoy every day are the likely culprits behind your weight gain.
You don’t want to change
Truthfully, I didn’t want to weigh myself because I didn’t want to have to change. I looked forward to my treat at the end of each day.
I didn’t want to give up caffeine or even cut it down. The hot cup of coffee forced me to step away from my desk and take a much-needed break. Not to mention it gave me the energy I needed to get through the day.
Change meant work that I wasn’t ready for. So I lived in my happy, ignorant bubble for a while.
You’re not listening to your body
Hiding behind my coffee and an overindulging habit was exhaustion. As a mom of two young girls, my days often start at 6 a.m., and I barely have a moment to myself until after 9 p.m.
I would stay up too late to have some alone time and be exhausted the next day. This cycle continued for years.
My addiction to caffeine and snacks was because I refused to acknowledge what my body needed – sleep, healthy food and good old-fashioned exercise.
Eventually, my bad habits caught up with me. Even after a coffee, I was yawning, and physically I didn’t feel well. I reached the point where change was no longer an option.
There’s something missing in your life
“Don’t ask what’s wrong, ask what’s missing.” – Michael Hyatt
Last month, I gave up sugar, caffeine, gluten, dairy and alcohol. Initially, I planned the cleanse for 10 days, but I felt great so I kept on going.
Instantly I noticed that I had more energy and I was taking care of myself like I always should have. I went to bed on time because I knew I couldn’t depend on my coffee fix. I packed a healthy lunch to work every day so that I wouldn’t be tempted or hungry.
The cravings for sugar faded away.
Then, something unexpected happened. Physically, I felt great, but emotionally, I realized I was unhappy.
I was using food and coffee as a fix to pick me up during long and often tiring days. Now, that those fixes were gone, I realized I was using my unhealthy habits to numb what was bothering me.
I wasn’t craving those things at all.
What I really wanted was more time in my day to do what I love instead of focusing mostly on unfulfilling tasks.
The only fix you need
Ask yourself this. If you’re happy and fulfilled would you be reaching for that glass of wine or donut?
My guess is no.
When we start making changes in one area of our life, like maybe following a passion or taking better care of ourselves, it starts to overflow and fill other areas too.
“Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.” – Charles Duhigg
My keystone habit was making time for my passion – writing.
Usually, when I used only willpower to quit unhealthy habits I would make it for a few months at a time. Then, inevitably I would be at a social event and cave. One little piece of cake derailed me and was enough to get me back on my unhealthy habit.
After I quit sugar, alcohol, coffee, dairy and gluten I visited family out of town. While away, I took a break from my diet. Upon my return, I easily stepped back to eating healthy.
I remembered how bad I felt before starting my new diet and I love how good I’m feeling now. So getting back to my healthy habits was easy and a no-brainer.
Also, I know I’m not cut off for life. I can still have pizza once in awhile or a glass of wine but no longer are either of those going to be a regular treat.
Committing to spending my days doing what I love has made all the difference for me.
What are you hiding?
So before you go and depend on impulse control, try figuring out what’s bothering you instead.
Maybe, the 9-5 grind is getting you down or you’re unhappy in your relationship or even dissatisfied with how you’re living.
An unhealthy habit is usually a welcome distraction from things we rather not notice in our lives. So before you reach for a muffin or third coffee of the day, tune in and ask yourself, why do I feel I need this?
The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg explains that each habit operates on a cue, routine, and reward system.
Duhigg suggests that to change a habit start by choosing a healthier routine that has the same reward.
For example. Let’s say it’s 10 a.m. and time for a coffee break with your colleagues (the cue). You already had a cup of coffee on the way to work and don’t need another one but love the chance to catch up with colleagues.
So instead of the routine of grabbing another coffee, try decaf, a tea or just tag along for the walk instead. You have the same reward of socializing without increasing your caffeine intake.
But change isn’t enough on its own to keep a healthy habit in place.
Believe you can do it and you will
If you asked me a year ago to quit caffeine or sugar. I would have given you an avalanche of reasons of why I couldn’t.
The exhaustion of motherhood made it impossible for me to believe I could survive without my two pick me ups.
Now, the difference is, I believe I can change.
I also know that the reward that I am seeking day after day was neither a caffeine energy burst or sugary treat. It was energy and time to take care of my girls and make time for my passion.
Now, I crave writing like I once would chocolate or a latte.
This I know will be better for my waistline and my emotional wellbeing.
What unhealthy habit are you willing to kick today?