What’s stronger - Habit or Willpower?


It’s almost New Year’s! And for some of us, that means Resolutions! Ah yes, the big pronouncement. “This year I will….” Or “This year I will not….” Man I just love a fresh slate, a chance to start new and reboot. The problem is the research bears out that about half of us making the resolutions don’t have a lot of success.

And guess what the number one resolution was in this year’s study (and probably every other year…)?

Losing weight. You can check it out here.

What got me thinking about this was I read a small article in one of my continuing ed journals about a study that looked at the power of HABIT versus the power of WILLPOWER and which is stronger?

And the New Year’s Resolution is often all about willpower.

Guess what? The research shows that setting up habits is more successful than willpower, self-control, or forcing oneself to stop or do something. Results showed that people tend to fall back on their habits instead of using willpower to make those changes successfully. Read the full study here.

So. Making changes in your life isn’t about making the BIG CHANGE. It’s about making a series of small changes and making those small changes a habit. The question for you to consider when trying to do something new with regularity, or stop doing something you don’t want to do anymore is, “How can I make this thing a HABIT?”

When I quit smoking (I know, disgusting), I had to stop all of my triggers: Coffee, alcohol, going to places that people smoked (in the day when this was allowed). I had to create new daily habits until my new habits replaced my old habits. It took some time before I felt comfortable having a cup of coffee again because I was so afraid of the trigger.

What are your goals? Do you have New Year’s Resolutions? If so consider this - Instead of saying things like:

*I am going to exercise every day. *I am going to lose 25 pounds. *I will never eat potato chips again. *I will never eat ice cream again. *I will always eat what's good for me.

How about if you can pick three things that you can do with regularity that lead you toward your long term goal?

*During this 7 day week, I’m going to go for two walks. *I’m going to eat dessert every other day. *I’m going to have my plate be made up of 2/3 vegetables . *I’m going to take the stairs. *On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m going to an exercise class. *I’m not going to put sugar in my coffee. *I’m going to only eat out 3 times this week. *I will look for parking spots that are far away from an entrance.

Then, create situations that make it easy for you to make that healthy choice a habit: *Leave your gym bag in your car, so you can stop at the gym on the way home from work. *Carry healthy snacks so that you have them if you get the munchies. *Carry water. *Bring your yoga mat with you in the car. *Lay out your workout clothes so you can roll out of bed and change into them (or sleep in them…yes I’ve been known to do this from time to time.) *Register for an event so that you have motivation to train for and do the event. *Make certain days of the week your ‘workout days’. *Put running shoes and water bottle where you trip on them…or in your car.

You get the idea.

This leads me to the great quote “Motivation is what gets you started. HABIT is what keeps you going” –Jim Ryun

Happy New Year!! May this year be full of healthy habits for you and yours. Peace, Sarah