Whenever you start a new diet, fitness routine, or meditation practice it is incredibly difficult to remain consistent.
There are thousands of online forums, subreddits, blog posts, and nonfiction books devoted to solving this dilemma. Unfortunately, the solution almost always centers around willpower. We are constantly told that the key to sticking to a diet or establishing a new habit is willpower.
It’s time to stop asking people who turn down a slice of cake at party how they have such strong willpower. You don’t need to have iron will to succeed.
So willpower isn’t the key to creating lasting change?
No, it isn’t.
Willpower is a limited resource, and therein lies the problem. You can only exert your will for so long until you begin to experience mental fatigue. Eventually, your willpower will give out, and you will find yourself binge eating or skipping a day at the gym. Trust me, that feels awful.
Willpower like any sheer force can only be sustained for so long, and when the moment arises that you find you have no more willpower left, it can be devastating. The realization that you can’t keep this up forever can make you miserable.
It’s often in the midst of this misery, that you give up…. That is until six months later, when you recuperate from the mental fatigue, and you decide to give it another shot. As I’m sure you know, it’s a cycle, and it doesn’t end there.
You will always fail to make progress in your life if you rely on willpower. Willpower endorses a detrimental unconscious image. Willpower focuses on lack rather than gains.
On an unconscious level, when you exert your will, you picture yourself struggling through your new diet or dragging yourself to the gym, hoping one day you will finally reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
Instead of focusing on getting healthier, growing stronger, or having more energy, you focus on restricting yourself from doing the things you enjoy. And that is essentially what willpower is, the ability to restrict yourself.
What if there was an alternative source of power that you could use to sustain new habits and create lasting change?
Growing up I often found success starting new habits, sticking to diets, and going to the gym, so it was difficult for me to understand why some people gave up so fast or struggled to even start a new habit. My parents could never get on a diet. My friends were difficult to drag to the gym (even if they wanted to get in shape). Eventually, I realized there was a fundamental difference in the way we were looking at the prospect of change.
The key disparity was that I was using my imagination and they were using their willpower. I was constantly focused the growth I was experiencing, to almost a delusional extent. If I ate organic whole foods for a week, my mind felt sharper, I felt wittier, and my energy and enthusiasm went through the roof. I still feel that way today, and it inspires me to keep going.
So in order to sustain change you have to imagine that you are experiencing progress. It sounds obvious but you have to become excited for it everyday.
Do as much research as you can about the benefits of eating healthy, practicing daily meditation, or going to the gym. Learn all you can, get excited to experience drastic change, and stay observant.
Believe in your progress. Become delusional about it. You are getting smarter and thinking more clearly every time you eat a salad. You are skyrocketing your vertical leap every time you do a squat.
Focus on your goals, on your plans, and on your progress. After all, you made this commitment because you wanted to be happier not more miserable.
As you vividly imagine yourself growing, sustaining habits will no longer become struggle or a test of willpower, but it will be an exercise of imagination. Use your imagination to its fullest capacity and even diets will become exciting and rewarding.
Trust me, with this simple mindset shift, when you look back 6 months from now, you will be surprised at what you accomplished.
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-The other half is up to you.