Resisting short term temptations to reach long term goals is easier said than done. Will power can be a bit tricky, and if we truly want control it’s important to strategize. A further look into our psychology and emotional awareness provides a lot of clues.
In 1998, Roy Baumeister published a now famous study that challenged participants to eat either freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or raw radishes. Obviously, there are few things in this world that smell better than fresh baked cookies. Two groups were assigned a snack (either cookie or radish) then asked to complete a challenging puzzle. The groups allowed to eat the cookies, fresh on blood sugar and sweet rewards, lasted significantly longer than the radish group. The radish group, after being teased with cookies and stripped of will power, simply ran out of gas.
Did the radish group run out of will power? Were they just angry about eating radishes and didn’t want to do a puzzle? There are so many factors involved here! Food as fuel must be considered when analyzing tendencies. Processed foods, especially refined grains and sugars, compromise hormonal balance. Those struggling with a sugar addiction are going to have a hard time making healthier choices. Also some of us are naturally inclined to be more disciplined in our choices, it’s in our DNA. We all have friends or family members who loved to study, wake up early, exercise, and eat healthy. Some of us have always struggled. Being in a good mood or having little stress can make it easier to make good choices. There are times in our lives when making healthy choices seems easy, and other times nearly impossible.
When you consider how many variables are involved, you give yourself multiple access points to improve your will power. Self discipline and delaying gratification is a great place to start. We all know that anything of importance takes time to develop, which means “powering through” to meet our goals won’t be enough. Set up an environment for success. If you want to break up with sweets, don’t have them in the house. No time to get to the gym? Set something up at home or walk on your lunch break. Know your personal pitfalls and have a plan. If you are trying to stick to clean eating but have a big work event to attend, eat something healthy in the afternoon so you don’t go overboard on unhealthy appetizers.
We’ve all had that feeling of simply running out of will power. At the heart of all change is having a conscious and honest conversation with yourself. By being more self aware, you can set yourself up to resist temptations, increase control, and win any personal battle you set your mind to.