Three insights to maximize your willpower to start 2020
“People don’t just find the strength and the willpower they need; they develop it through understanding and practice and then create it themselves.” Mag Secretario
There is no better time to reorient yourself than at the start of a new decade.
Think about it like a super-charged New Year’s resolution or better yet, New Year’s insights. You know what happens to many resolutions! As the 2020s begin, we all have the opportunity to step back, evaluate our lives, and set more meaningful goals for the next 5-10 years.
We can cast fresh visions for relationships, career aspirations, and personal health. We can commit to taking better care of ourselves – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
In the season of Winter, especially, nature gently nudges us to look within and reflect. Long nights and cold weather create the perfect environment for deep introspection in the warmth of our homes. With the rest of the world, we can rest and prepare for the vibrancy of Spring that lies just around the corner.
During this time, I find it particularly important to share my experiences and learnings related to willpower. Trained as a Personal Life & Transformation coach who works with other coaches, I am especially passionate about this topic. I love helping my peers maximize their client’s willpower to transform negative habits into positive behaviors.
Many people think willpower is simply one’s ability to muster motivation towards a specific end or resist short-term temptation. However, this definition leaves out an important reality. Generating willpower isn’t all about us and how good we are at producing it. It’s influenced by many other factors and choices that we either make or don’t make.
For example, a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) perspective includes this description:
志 (zhì) Zhi is your willpower and drive to live! If lacking Zhi, you may plan and envision the most amazing things (a Liver/Wood virtue), but you may not have the drive to enact your dreams and plans. The Zhi also gives us the ability to be introspective, to reflect and remember. This skill is a willful focus of our consciousness to look within. In short, if you have strong Kidney energy, (more on that later), you have a strong will…there will be no stopping you if you set your mind to something.
“What is now proved was once only imagined.” William Blake
As you probably guessed, sleep has a tremendous impact on willpower!
Those who are consistently well-rested, and practice healthy sleeping habits have more willpower at their disposal. They have more capacity to tackle challenges and address difficult situations.
On the other hand, sleep deprivation drains our willpower tank. It steals precious energy from our minds and bodies, making it harder to start new projects or push existing ones over the finish line. According to a team of Clemson researchers, lack of sleep also diminishes our self-control and our ability to deter unhealthy impulses.
At the start of the year, I wanted to offer three powerful insights regarding willpower that I am following in my own life. Take these into the new decade with joy and confidence!
“Meditation is to get insight, to get understanding and compassion, and when you have them, you are compelled to act.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Quality Over Quantity
In our busy and hectic culture, it’s easy to convince ourselves that more hours = more productivity. All we need is willpower to make the “more hours” part work.
In some situations, yes, working more means you get more done. However, the quality of what you accomplish falls dramatically after a certain point. Your willpower yields diminishing marginal returns. It also comes at an opportunity cost – devoting more willpower to one task or goal means you have less energy for something else, i.e., relationships, exercise, etc.
I encourage people to focus on quality over quantity when it comes to channelling willpower. Recognize that you only have a limited number of high-quality hours in a day, even after a night of fantastic sleep.
As the rest of the world moves faster, be someone who slows down with intention and purpose. Go against the grain, recognizing that your willpower is precious and finite.
“At a certain point you can’t really tell whether you have created the momentum or it’s creating you.” adapted from Annie Lennox
Go Where Your Momentum Leads You
Even with a full tank of willpower at your disposal, it’s easy to use it inefficiently. For example, dividing your attention across many different tasks can drain you more quickly than focusing on one activity for an extended period.
Rather than get 10% of the way through 10 projects, focus on getting one project to 100% completion. Not only will you feel better about your productivity, but you will also build a habit of deploying your willpower with efficiency.
I also like to think about this in terms of momentum. If you have three things to finish in one day, start where your energy is leading you. Go until you notice you’ve lost your “edge.” Don’t keep grinding if your productivity has fallen off a cliff. Instead, move over to task #2 and come back to #1 when you feel replenished.
It’s important to develop an awareness of your willpower levels and navigate throughout your day accordingly.
Is there an app for that?
“Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work and helps make something of the world.” Heraclitus
Sleep On It
Not only is good sleep essential for the following day, but it’s also valuable for processing the past. If you expend all of your willpower in a day but have unfinished business, choose to sleep instead of more effort. Let your unconscious mind work on your problem or situation.
It’s incredibly tempting to negotiate with yourself, promising you’ll catch up on sleep later in exchange for more work now. This is not a trade you want to make.
Once you get into a habit of running your willpower below zero and into the negatives, it’s incredibly hard to break. Also, sleep debt isn’t something you can pay off with a 12-hr slumber on the weekends. The extra four hours one day a week is your body’s reaction to exhaustion and is not a replacement for five days of sleep deprivation!
Respect your willpower. Give your mind and body the rest it needs so that you can get the most out of every moment. There’s no better time to start than January 2020!
Respect yourself and let’s have a chat together to start a great year!