Willpower is Limited.
(so use it where it counts)
One of the best uses of willpower is
to help boost us into a positive, sustainable habit.
We all struggle with willpower challenges.
Whether we’re trying to avoid eating that tempting chocolate chip cookie on the table,
(I know, we both just pictured that), or not smoking another “something”…, we can all make a list of challenges to our willpower.
And it doesn’t take long to recognize that Willpower alone is not an effective strategy for creating lasting life improvement.
But when you get committed to eliminating a negative habit, the way you get started at embedding the new, positive habit is by using willpower as the tool to get you off the starting line.
Once you make the beneficial pattern your “normal” one, these behaviors then become the “default” behaviors.
Why? Because your sub-conscious now regards the pattern as the status-quo, and it is built for keeping that in place.
So use it to your advantage.
Once in place, a habit removes the “in your head” debate every time the relevant situation needs action. Your mind just executes the program and more often than not (no one’s perfect every time), you “Just Do It.” (as Nike would say).
Getting Over The Hump
What if on our way to establishing the good habit you’ve chosen, there was a way you could help disarm the impulse to do the unhelpful behavior? (a willpower cheat, so to speak)
Who would have thought?
Research into in the workings of willpower has discovered at least one effective way to help do exactly that:
Use a simple breathing technique to alter your brain chemistry.
And it only takes about two minutes!
The body connected technique appears to cause your brain to insert what researchers call a “pause and plan” response into those tempting, or stressful situations.
And the longer we stay disconnected from the “negative habit default” impulse, (with it’s feeling we must act now or we’ll miss the immediate experience, opportunity, feeling, etc.) the more likely we’ll stick with our more conscious, beneficial desire.
And we strengthen the new habit every time we do.
A Breath That Changes Your Mind (8 breaths, actually)
Intentionally changing our physical behavior to alter how we feel has been tested in a wide variety of studies.
Another example is outlined by Amy Cuddy’s research on Power Poses. (see my Post – How You Stand, Will Change Your Mind – Amy Cuddy TED talk, under the “Inspiration” menu.)
This particular “body changing your mind” technique is a breathing approach. It is simple to learn, and so fast to do, (just a 3 minute escape/bathroom break), that it’s an easy way to quickly boost a willpower deficit or diffuse the anticipation of a willpower challenging situation.
Even better, the studies found it’s regular practice appears to make future choices even easier.
Here’s how it works: (but, do not do this while driving)
Adapted from a technique described by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. in her book The Willpower Instinct.
Sit in a comfortable position.
Close your eyes.
Focus on your breathing.
Now inhale fully and then, exhale evenly, counting to 15 over the next 15 seconds.
Then fully inhale and repeat this process again, until you complete 8 full exhales, which will cover about the next two minutes.
Stay focused on your breathing, counting from 1 – 15 over the single exhale, full to empty, each time.
When complete, before you open your eyes, picture the positive result you prefer and feel the pleasure of enjoying it.
With that feeling present, open your eyes,
And you’re done!
Stay Present To Results
As you practice this technique, stay connected to how you feel after each 2 minute session.
People often express they are not only more relaxed, but feel more centered and more able to ignore stress or a craving call. (in just 2 minutes!).
The researchers discovered the more people used this simple breathing technique, the more often they experienced a reduced interest in the automatically triggered reaction or craving. ie. less willpower needed to say no and move on.
That feeling can allow you to put more energy into establishing the new habit you’re intentionally creating, more quickly embedding that better choice as your default.
A Little Help To Get You Started
To help you train your body to this focused rhythm, I’ve created an audio to easily guide you through the breathing.
It’s a free gift to help you get started faster.
Download it to your phone, so it’s always with you, or wherever works best for you.
Try it out over the next few days whenever you feel a craving or are anxious or stressed.
See what you find it does for you.
If you see results in just a few days of practice, use it anytime you feel tense, unfocused or distracted.
Build Your “Intentional Living Tool Box”
The more you get clear on the experience of life you want, you inevitably uncover areas in your way of being or lifestyle that are working against that experience.
Quality tools and perspectives can help you open your mind to accept the changes you want, faster.
Especially if they were designed to accelerate a change in an area they were specifically designed to transform.
One of my goals is to give you access to as many of these high quality “Intentional Living Tools” and techniques as possible.
That way you can have the right tool for the job, and more quickly re-align your results with the experience of life you want.
This “pause and plan” response tool is one you can use immediately, at almost any time.
I use this simple technique myself and share it with friends to help them.
Now where’s that cookie?….. (so I can show it who’s in charge!)
Never stop moving forward.
To learn more about Willpower, I recommend listening to or reading the book: The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. It’s filled with researched techniques and insights to help us put our focus on what matters most to us.
You can check it out here:▽