Life would be so much easier if we all just had a little more willpower. We would be excited to go to the gym in the morning, be able to focus when reading, and feel better choosing healthier food options and avoiding those junk foods. We all have moments of it, but where does it go?
As a chiropractor, willpower is something I have to think about everyday. Is my client going to stick with the nutrition changes I recommended? Are they going to do the physio exercises I provided? Are they going to continue to take care of themselves after they start feeling better?
How willpower works is best described by a famous study known as “The Cookie Experiment”, which essentially forced participants to attempt to complete an impossible puzzle to see how long it took before they gave up. The catch? One group got to eat a cookie that was in front of them, while the other received a radish (and needed to use their willpower to resist the cookie).
The results showed that the group that had to resist the cookie gave up on completing the puzzle in HALF the amount of time!
What does this mean? Willpower is a finite resource! Some people may be more naturally motivated and be able to achieve more as a result. However, with this in mind you can use several strategies that help use this precious resource more efficiently so you have more of it for the things you want to accomplish! I have listed 3 strategies I use with my clients below:
- Focus on making life as easy as possible
We often take pride in overcoming difficulty even though we created that difficulty for ourselves. The most common example of this I see in the clinic is restricting calories and saying we will be able to overcome our hunger. A great way to combat this is to eat high protein and fat first thing in the morning, which will balance out our hunger and hormones so we feel full longer and eliminate sugar cravings. Doing this alone, I see many clients simply eat more balanced throughout the day without restricting themselves.
2. Do tasks when the willpower required is much lower
As a chiropractor prescribing physio rehab exercises, I tend to recommend my clients build these exercises into their training rather than saying “morning” or “before bed” when it would require far more of your willpower resources. If you are already training at the gym, or even going for a walk, your body is already moving and those exercises won’t feel like an additional chore that you need to start from scratch.
Another example is if you are training in the morning, pack or put on your gym clothes before you go to bed so it is not something you have to do when you are already putting a significant effort into getting up in the morning to exercise. The willpower required to do this the night before will be far less than having to do so the next day.
3. Define Your Goals and Enjoy Your Accomplishments!
What am I using this resource for? It is hard to feel motivated to start running when you don’t know the destination and your effort may not be putting you in the direction you want to go. Having a clear goal defined, and asking yourself why you have that goal in mind is super important so we don’t become resistant to the effort that we are making. And this will change over time as we start change as a result of the efforts we are putting in, and thats ok!
When this is hard to define, this is when it can be useful to work with a coach, trainer or even a friend. This can help you discover what you didn’t know was possible, help to keep you on track and also have someone to celebrate your successes with you. This not only makes you require less of your willpower resource, but start to boost your willpower when you start to develop a positive relationship with the difficult efforts we are putting in.
All therapists, whether they be chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, naturopaths and personal trainers need to consider how willpower works when creating a solution that works for you. At iON Health + Performance, we work together to build strategies to optimize each individuals health and performance goals. If you want to learn more about how we can help you ADVANCE YOUR HEALTH, book a free consultation with one of our team members!