Are you currently considering making some changes in your life? Perhaps you want to shed some weight or distance yourself from a damaging relationship or improve your bedtime routine and sleep habits? Most people believe that in order to achieve their goals they must prime and call into play their willpower. They begin any and all plans to implement change in their life with a stern conversation with their willpower. Unknowingly they dictate and assign responsibilities to their willpower, of which willpower is not equipped to take on. (Some people are nicer than others, to their willpower!) People misunderstand willpower! Willpower is just like a muscle; it gets fatigued and overworked. A fatigued muscle is not a stable muscle. It needs rest and recuperation in order to continue being reliable. So too, does willpower.
Just think about a time when you were determined to go to bed, routinely, at precisely 10pm for the next week. You decided that you will do this, just before going to bed at precisely 10pm on Sunday night. And so you succeeded that night and checked the date on your calendar! You woke up feeling good, proud and positive about your efforts so far, on Monday morning. Then you went to work and because it was Monday there was a backlog of work you didn’t get sorted before you left Friday, so you have got to catch up. You call into play your willpower to help you prioritize your work tasks, and then while you’re playing catch up, you spend some time debating with yourself whether or not you should indulge in that coffee, and by the time you were able to decide, it was mid-afternoon, and no, no you didn’t have that coffee. You decided to push through. You realized, as you were going through this pile of work, just why you left it for Monday, when you left work that previous Friday. Then you weren’t feeling too cheerful about your situation. You began to ponder more uplifting things. You thought about that Netflix series you’ve been wanting to watch and while you worked you began having another debate with yourself as to whether you should watch one episode, or if completely taken by the series, could you possibly afford binging a whole season before bed time? And at quitting time you walked out to you your car feeling really hot, and tired and thinking about whether or not you were going to make your Monday bike ride.
Having to make decisions all day long will keep your willpower very active or extremely active in more stressful situations. Perhaps you can see now, just how all that decision making takes a toll on willpower?
Fortunately, there is a different way to achieve success in making changes in order to reach your goals. Did you know that your human brain is hardwired to cause you to respond and behave a certain way around any given stimuli? Yes, it is true! Your patterns or processes are built, at the foundational level, upon the emotional intensity you experienced when having a thought about your experience with that certain stimuli!
For example, when some people see a cake, they now have made a case for NEEDING to have a piece of that cake. That could be due to the intense emotions they felt when they were finally served that piece of cake on their 5th birthday, after having been sung to and celebrated by their family, friends and loved ones, made to feel so special and experienced extreme joy. Yes, seeing, smelling or enjoying the texture of a cake brings it all back doesn’t it? And not just the first time, all the subsequent times they enjoyed a cake are at play in that situation, as well. That intense feeling built a program that the body runs when a cake is spotted. That program could be the thought, “I need it” or “I deserve it”. The same goes for those intense negative feelings that support for things like fears and phobias. Your body runs a program automatically.
The initial catalyst for the programs your body and mind are running may not always be known to you. And it’s not necessarily important to always have to trace an unhelpful pattern to that moment of onset. If you want to make a change to that pattern or create a sturdy, consistent, and reliable new habit you can do that by partnering an intense emotion with that action.
So, if you want do a new habit with ease and comfort you do it this way. Let’s say you want to stop Insomnia and are determined to move bedtime up to 10pm every day next week. First, take a moment to imagine waking up at dawn and experiencing the most beautiful, evocative sunrise treat and allow yourself to be curious about what natural phenomena you may experience if a sunrise moment doesn’t present itself. Second, bring to mind all the good feelings you are going to experience and feel them now! Third, imagine floating out beside yourself, and observe yourself taking in the beautiful, warm sunrise, starting off the morning well. Really imagine even the smallest details that will bring you peace and joy and imagine depositing that feeling into every cell in your body! Lastly, you will find that you naturally compel yourself to prioritize that sunset over Netflix!