The Illusion of Endless Willpower

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People often ask me, if I’m following a special diet (thanks to the media in Denmark, being fit equals eating paleo). The truth is I haven’t followed a diet consequently for 10 years or more. I really like the principles behind Precision Nutrition, as followers of this blog might have noticed, so it not that I find it silly or not worth it …. I just happen to use of all my willpower before I get to cooking 🙂 When I tell people this, many find it strange. I think that we all like the idea (illusion?) of endless willpower.

However, I have always believed that you have only a certain quantity of discipline/willpower and that you need to apply this wisely in order to reach the goals that are most important to you.  If to try to do everything simultaneously, you are destined to fail in at least one of your endeavors. I always have a mental “list” of my most important life projects, and I strive to act according to that list. #1 is my education – I always make sure to have this covered, as I dream of writing a phD. # 2 is my training – I won’t allow myself to skip training unless I have a really good excuse (sickness or studies). When I’m done with these to things – I usually had to ‘spend’ a lot of willpower and be really organized. I then spend a few percent on other practicalities such as work and housekeeping in general. Point is, when I get to dinner, I’m not up for a strict meal plan or anything that resembles. I make sure to fill the kitchen with good quality commodities and then make something up. I’m happy that way, and I don’t feel guilty because I know that I’ve spend the energy/willpower (call it what you like) where it was most important.  – Ditte

The article below sums it up quite nicely:

From the article “How To Strengthen Willpower, Part 2”:

The idea that willpower is inherently limited is a tough idea for many people to accept. We’d rather believe that our own inner strength is limitless and that if we just try hard enough, we can kick any bad habit, stick to any diet and follow any fitness program, while simultaneously winning friends and influencing people. If everything from stress to blood sugar levels can get in the way of willpower, it’s no wonder we aren’t all self-control superheroes.

This shouldn’t be taken as bad news, and it doesn’t mean we’re all doomed to self-control failure. A strength model of willpower gives you and your clients a realistic and creative way to plan for success. Among the top lessons of the research are the following:

  • Because willpower is limited, it’s important to set reasonable goals and priorities. Conserve your willpower for what really matters.
  • Recognize that willpower is not “all in the mind,” and supply your mind-body with the fuel it needs to face life’s challenges. This fuel includes rest and a healthy diet.
  • Understand how the demands of your job, family and other relationships may interfere with your (and your clients’) ability to stick with a health or fitness program. Look for ways to reduce stress in all areas of your life to support any major life change.
  • Conserve or bypass willpower by focusing on other strengths: planning, commitment and positive

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