How to Find the Willpower to Stick to Your Resolutions

3 years ago

Let's admit it: the first day of a resolution is easy. You jump into that new exercise routine or eating habit with gusto.  The next day is a little bit harder.  You have a conflict that keeps you from that spinning class, or you get your period and all you feel like doing is watching old episodes of House and eating popcorn (not that I've ever done that...).  But the third day: forget it.  It's really hard to find the willpower to stick to yoga goals or eating a daily salad.

My resolution this year was to get more sleep.  I had big plans as to how I was going to get myself into bed at the same time every night, ensuring that I obtained the optimal amount of sleep.  So far, I've gone to bed late both nights, and then overslept in the morning because my body felt so sleep-deprived.

So how do I find the willpower to turn off the iPad early and go to sleep so I have something more important: better health?

Image: ggvic via Flickr

Reward Yourself Elsewhere

Researchers such as Dan Ariely look at willpower as a muscle.  When we overwork it, it screams at us to stop.  We are programmed to give into temptation.  So create a different temptation that you can give into to distract yourself from your primary goal.  It's the concept of retail therapy: you didn't solve your problem, but you gained something new and pretty that helps distract you from the issue at hand.  So create a temptation elsewhere that doesn't create a new problem for yourself down the road.  Save your resistance for where you really need it.

Anticipate and Prepare

My goal is at the end of the day, therefore, it's easier to work backwards and prepare so the road is clear and I don't have to work as hard to reach my goal.  But the point is to predict all the things that could thwart you from reaching your goal and take care of them before they can get in the way.  This means creating priorities in other places in your day so you can take care of things before they encroach on your goal.  Also figure out your triggers and avoid them.  If I know that I fall down the rabbit hole when it comes to Candy Crush, always promising myself one more game, it would be a bad idea to start any round of Candy Crush right before bed.

Track Your Goal

Nothing helps you stay on track than having hardcore evidence of the times when you've succeeded.  Make arbitrary markers for yourself, so you feel as if you're always working towards a milestone and then passing it.  Keeping a sleep notebook can also help me to gather information so I know what works and what doesn't to get me more sleep.

Make Your Goal Convenient

We are programmed to grab for the easiest option, so make your goal just as easy as not doing your goal.  For instance, if you're trying to eat a salad each day, cut up the vegetables ahead of time so it takes just as much time to pull together a salad as it does to reach for that bag of chips.  I'm trying to make my bed as cozy and inviting as possible, making getting into pyjamas and getting into bed at the end of the day just as much fun as staying up and reading another chapter in that book.

So what are you doing to make sure that you stick to your goals?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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