April 1, 2015

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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~William Durant

If excellence is a habit, so is complacency. How do we move away from negative habits that do not serve us and toward habits that restore and support our growth and happiness? Most of us respond to this question with one word: willpower. Fill in the blank: “If I had more willpower, I would…”

Of course we all have willpower and use it every day. But willpower, much like a muscle, becomes fatigued and depleted with overuse. We begin our day with a finite amount of willpower, or a limited amount of energy to exert it. As a result, we often run out of self-control before facing pivotal decisions at day’s end. That is likely why we reach for the refrigerator door the minute we walk in the house! Studies reveal that repeatedly resisting temptation in any realm of our lives often drains our ability to withstand future enticements.

Several studies have shown that personal choice, active response, self-regulation, and other acts of volition may all draw on a common internal resource: willpower. But don’t let this discourage you! Just as our biceps and quads are strengthened by regular exercise, regularly exerting self-control may improve willpower strength and confidence over time. The key is to use willpower wisely to create desirable habits that ultimately become “autopilot” responses. Reinforcing and maintaining our new habits requires far less willpower than initiating them. Once new automatic responses and habits are created in one area, our willpower, energy, and attention can be directed to a different area.

What is the one change that you can make that will most satisfy you? What is your motivation for committing to that change? How will you feel differently physically, mentally, or emotionally when you make that change?

Now, go for it! Whether you choose to add 5 minutes of exercise to your morning routine, make your lunch three days per week, or respond more thoughtfully to your partner, acknowledge yourself for any progress made and commit to stick with it. Slipping up on your habits doesn’t make you a failure; it makes you human! After making a mistake, resist the urge to berate yourself. Instead, remind yourself, “I am better than this.” and move forward, It will take less willpower to recommit to a freshly established habit than it did to initiate the new habit. You’ve got this!

Live well/ Be well

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