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Setting Healthy Goals: How Focusing on Habits Overcomes Poor Willpower

Often folks describe their failure to reach a goal as a lack of willpower. However, willpower is really just another word for self-control. Self-control is simply your ability to act the way you want to in the situations you find yourself. Most people only succeed in acting the way they want if they have a plan in place and practice doing it. The following tips talk about how focusing on your habits can help you overcome a lack of willpower. Let’s get started.

Understand Why

Most people want to force themselves to do things without even knowing why. For example, they may want to start exercising every day just because everyone is doing it, or someone made a cruel comment about their weight. They don’t care or want to take the time to learn about the actual benefits of exercising or how it will improve their life.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. Before you can develop a new habit, you need to understand the benefits of setting this new habit. You have to convince yourself, with research, that it’s the correct action to take and that you need to do it because the evidence says so.

For example, let’s say you’ve measured your daily water intake and found you’re short a few glasses per day because you drink too much soda. Your research shows that drinking all that soda increases your risk of obesity and all the diseases that go with it, plus you’ve noticed you are feeling tired a lot. Additionally, the science on drinking water shows you that drinking enough will improve your digestion, increase your energy level, and help you avoid brain fog.

Once you know that you need to drink enough fresh filtered water to have a chance to become your healthiest self, it makes it easier to plan how you’ll increase your water intake each day. It will also keep you motivated so you’ll soon be consuming more water without even thinking about it.

Make it a Habit

If you want to have more self-control, it helps if you develop good habits and systems that you know work instead of just expecting yourself to do what needs to be done. Developing habits and systems cause you to ritualize your days and nights so that the healthy things you do become just another habit.

The key to setting new habits is to repeatedly do the thing you want to become a habit. To break it down further, you have set cues or triggers that make you want to do the action. This might be setting reminders to drink a glass of water after you complete each task at work. It might be having visuals that help remind you of your goal such as a photo of you when you were in great shape or 20 pounds lighter. You also have to reward yourself along the way. These must be desirable or impactful enough to keep you motivated and pushing for your goal.

So, take the time to not only think about the habit but the cues or triggers you can put in place along with small meaningful rewards to help you along the way.

Ritualize It

Instead of waiting for the willpower to drink the water, set up times throughout the day that you’ll drink a measured amount. Do this for the next thirty days whether you want to or not. Again, it’s all about repetitions. The more you do it and the more often you do it, the sooner it will become a habit.

Include things that make it pleasurable too. For example, if you normally enjoy a big glass of iced tea after dinner while watching television take the time to prepare your glass of water to make it special. Buy a special cup that makes you feel good, purchase your favorite kind of ice (crushed, cubes, chips?) if you don’t have the ability to make it at home. Add a squeeze of lemon or other fruit and vegetables (strawberry + lemon + basil is great as is cucumber + orange). Sip it as if it’s the best drink you’ve ever had.

The human mind makes it easy to form a bad habit as it does to form a good habit. You can create these habits and rituals by looking to the data to see what works for most folks. Implement that idea into your life for at least 30 days, then evaluate and tweak it to improve it for your own needs and expected results. Once you do this, you won’t need to rely on willpower because you’ll have gained a new habit. You’ll automatically do it today because you did it yesterday. 

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