It’s the time of year where we like to set goals. So I thought I’d to quickly cover willpower. This idea that relying on willpower by itself to achieve goals is not very sustainable. If you set a goal that is a plan to not do something, that is essentially “I’m not going to give into temptation”, this is asking too much of yourself. Because, yes in this moment you feel like you will have no problem walking away in future, once you’re in a situation it’s much more difficult than that. What is more likely to be the case is you’ll struggle in the situation. On this notion it’s important you be deliberate about the situations that you put yourself into. Minimise how much you rely on pure willpower to achieve a goal. A helpful tactic is to be prepared in advance. If you have a choice ahead of you that is part of goal, decide beforehand. That way before you have a decision in front of you – eg. Your goal is to eat less calories to lose weight (Firstly never use negative goals, but this is a common goal so I’m using it) so you go to dinner and wait to get a menu before deciding, don’t wait decide beforehand. Most menu’s are available online and if not decide – I’ll have grilled chicken and if that’s not an option I’ll have (insert option here) and I’ll just get tea or whatever floats your boat if other people order dessert. Pre-deciding increases the likelihood that you’ll do this by 3 fold. If you ever find yourself saying I just won’t be tempted…. Of course you will be. If you’re serious about your goal, be smarter about it (get it, smart goals there is a reason they’re so widely recognised). Decide in advance what your decision will be, because you don’t know how much willpower you will have in the moment you need it. Think through your options and be prepared to make a better decision when the moment comes. It will improve the odds of achieving your goal.
I also just wanted to quickly talk about negative goal setting. When we set goals we’re aiming to create a habit. Habits are stored in your basal ganglia, eventually the things we consciously have to think about become an unconscious process that “just happens”. Think about driving a car. When you first learnt to drive a car you used your Prefrontal cortex, every part of driving a car took cognitive processing. You consciously moved your foot off the break, it took all of your brain power to check your blind spot without steering across into the other lane (this may have just been me). And now when I drive I barely think about any of the processes that would have taken such significant thought processing previously. Driving has become a habit, an unconscious process of actions that no longer requires my conscious input. Habits in their essence cannot be negative. Therefore, you cannot create a goal that is “stopping” something. It must be a positive. Normally to remove a bad habit, we replace it with another habit. Soo be very mindful what you replace your bad habit with. Instead of eating Oreo’s after dinner (my personal bad habit), I will read a book… go for a walk… have pre-cut carrot sticks as a snack. The idea of eating less calories is not measurable, less than when? How much less? Do you continue to eat less than the previous day? If you don’t have something specific to attain it makes it difficult. Once you have a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-framed goal… remember just like learning to drive, any habit is a process of learning, give yourself time to learn.