23 Jun

Master Willpower by Removing Cues and Triggers

Who wants to make changes to their life but find it hard to stay on track with new habits? Who always ends up back at square one living in their old life with old habits and with no change? This was me! 

Who believes they should have the willpower to make any changes they want? I did! However, willpower alone – self-control, resisting temptation – doesn’t work. 

Our brain works with triggers and cues and these make it hard for us to make changes as we are constantly fighting with our brain about what it has already learnt and wants to be doing.  This is why we have to build our willpower ‘muscle’.  We have to help our willpower muscle develop by first, building an awareness of the things we want to change and then develop strategies for minimising the cues that trigger the brain, that make willpower a daily challenge.

It is important to minimise cues and triggers when you make life changing choices to break habits that have been built over time.  If these cues remain in our everyday environment we will be continuously pulled towards our old habits.  This is why it is easier to break and change a habit when we are on holiday or in a new or different environment.  Having a move around of your cupboards, fridge and furniture can aid new habit forming – the old familiar patterns and locations trick the brain into believing that it is somewhere new and needs to develop new behaviour patterns.

Leave it all to Willpower?

It is important to recognise that willpower is like a muscle and that if we over rely on that muscle, we may find it harder to resist triggers and therefore fail to create long term change.  If you over exert a muscle, it gets tired.  This is the same for decision making and self-control.  You can try to will yourself to make changes but temptations will drain you over time as the muscle gets tired making it harder for long term changes to stick.

Build your Willpower Muscle

Your willpower ‘muscle’ is just like any other muscle – give it a regular workout and it will grow stronger.  The problem comes when you believe that willpower is that ‘in-the-moment’ feat of self-control against an overwhelming craving or temptation.  Exercising your willpower does not mean flexing your ability to torture yourself by sitting in front of a big bar of chocolate or bottle of wine.  This does not work.  True willpower comes when preparation meets commitment.  Here is how to build your willpower muscle:

COMMITMENT: make a clear-minded decision of what you will or will not do based on a clear understanding of WHY you want to do it and what will happen if you don’t.

PREPARATION: do not expect yourself to be able to resist temptation in the moment.  Be prepared!

  • Do you need any materials/food?
  • Do you need to change your schedule?
  • Do you need to remove anything from your home?
  • Are there any scenarios or locations or people you need to avoid or be prepared to face with a pre-determined statement of why you will or won’t be doing something?

If you want to utilise your willpower to stop eating chocolate for example, don’t buy it and throw any out that are in your home.  If you want to do 100 sit-ups a day, don’t leave it up to how you feel in the moment – set an alarm, have your mat in the right position and commit to do it when the alarm goes off NO MATTER WHAT!

“Willpower isn’t something that gets handed out to some and not to others. It is a skill you can develop through understanding and practice.” Gillian Riley 

Regularly practicing different types of self-control: It has also been shown that if you practise self-control on smaller things, this can build your muscle.  For example, waiting to check your social media, portion control on unhealthy snacks, keeping a food diary, not responding to someone’s comments that triggers you emotionally, sitting up straight, or any other thing that will force you to practise self-control.

Visualise if you can mentally project yourself into the future of a situation that is a trigger and see/feel yourself with a new pattern or behaviour – this starts to give the brain a new framework.  In other words, if you can break a pattern in your mind, you can break it when you are then exposed to the thing in real life.  Visualisation is also powerful because it has been shown in studies that people who can strongly identify with their new story or self  have much better self-control. How and what will you feel/look/hear when you have formed your new behaviour pattern?  What results will this new behaviour pattern get you? Visualise your end result, it will strengthen your willpower when faced with temptation.

Self Trust: To successfully break an old habit or behaviour pattern you have to trust yourself that you will follow through no matter what because if not, you will sabotage yourself.  For example, if you are able to resist the temptation of hitting the snooze button in the morning your brain will recognise it and see it as evidence that you CAN make changes to your behaviour patterns.  The more evidence your brain has that you can, the easier it is to create new patterns and changes.

Go prove it to yourself that YOU CAN!

  • Choose a simple behaviour change that you are 100% confident you will follow through with
  • Keep at it until you create a new habit
  • As you gain confidence, increase the difficulty of the behaviour you are trying to change

Remember, the more evidence you give your brain that you can break old habits and form new, the easier it becomes. Do that simple change until it becomes a natural part of your daily actions.

"Willpower knows no obstacles. Find your greatness" - Nike

You can become the you that you want to be.BECOME YOU    ❤️Thank you for readingMuch love x

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