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Episode 014 - Find Your Willpower

Hello. Good morning or afternoon or evening. Welcome to the Episode 14 of the Motivating Mom podcast. Im your host Lisa Druxman and I am so glad you are listening. It is my hope to give you that little boost you need, that little bit of inspiration or motivation. And I’m so proud of you for taking just a little time for yourself.

This morning in my Body Back class, we got to talking about will power. I find my clients often beat themselves up for not having enough of it. But before you criticize yourself, do you understand how to maximize it? I love how the book The One Thing describes willpower like a tank of gas. If you keep using it up, you will run out. The faster you go, the faster you use up the tank. Every time you make a decision, you use up your fuel. This is why you usually lose your will power by the end of the day.

Stress and willpower don’t mix. That’s probably why you feel it’s so low. People are so stressed out! If you want more will power, you need to find ways to decrease your stress! Stress puts your brain in the fight or flight response. It cannot make wise, willpower kinds of decisions when it’s in this mode.

You probably don’t know that your brain uses glucose, just like your muscles do. And when you use your willpower, you use up a lot of that glucose. This might sound counter intuitive, but you need to feed your brain in order to keep your will power up. When your sugar level is down in your brain, you can’t focus and hence can’t keep up your willpower. Eat healthy balance meals regularly and your brain will keep replenishing. Anything that boosts your mood, reduces stress or increases your energy will also increase your willpower. So once again, I’m encouraging you to do things that will be good for you.

How else can you improve your willpower? Change your attitude. The mind will go where there is pleasure. So if you attach a negative stigma to exercise or dieting or whatever you are wanting to do, then you will resist. But if you truly create positive associations with the activity and the result, then your mind will be attracted to that outcome. I’m not making this stuff up. The the last 5 years, there has been incredible research on the science of willpower. Kelly McGonigal is probably the leading researcher in the field. She has a course at Stanford University called The Science of Willpower. Her analogy is the willpower is like a muscle. Just like a muscle, it can get fatigued if you use it continuously. But just like a muscle, it can get strengthened when you build up slowly.

When you use will power, your mind is in a battle for what you want now for what you want in the future. If you don’t want the future goal bad enough, your will power will always lose out. So, it’s very important that you choose your goals wisely. Is it really important to you? Really? Do you have a very strong attachment to the outcome?

Years ago I read a great book called The Marshmallow Test. This has been around for awhile so you may have heard this one. It was an experiment done on kids in the 60’s by researcher Dr. Walter Mischel. This was also done at Stanford. The premise was that they could have one marshmallow now or wait and get more later. The children were left alone with the one marshmallow in front of them. Pure torture right? Those who were able to wait did all kinds of creative stuff to distract themselves. Those who gave in were stressed and totally focused on the one marshmallow. Mischel studied these kids for 50 years. The kids who delayed gratification had more will power for the rest of their years. They had lower weights, lower divorce rates, higher SAT scores. Now, you would think that this is all pre wired, pre determined and maybe not a good indicator for your success? Nope. He also learned that will power is teachable!!!

So, here are 5 scientifically proven tips to increase your willpower.

  1. Find an accountability partner. You are more likely to succeed if you have a spouse, friend or team with the same goal as you. McGonigal has found that willpower is contagious. Be around other people who are successful.

  2. Have a healthy but enjoyable snack. You want to keep the blood sugar stable in your brain and you boost your willpower from feeling satisfied.

  3. Sleep. Will power is highest after sleep. So make sure to sleep well and even take a nap to refresh your willpower.

  4. Meditate or journal. Do something to help you relax. It will give your brain the boost it needs.

This is the Motivating Mom podcast so let’s take this topic to motherhood. In order to teach our kids will power or delayed gratification, we have to model it. We can’t expect our children to delay gratification if we don’t. Really, this is a good lesson that our behavior has consequences. Connect how your behavior has positive consequences and you will be more likely to do it again.

My favorite part about this is that it’s science. We get so mad at ourselves for a lack of will power. But it’s not your will. It’s your brain. And you can get your brain to lead you if you train it properly. Choose what’s most important to you. Eat well. Stress less. Take small baby steps towards your goal. Get back on track when you get off track. This is doable!! Beating yourself up does you absolutely no good. It causes more stress in your brain. So stop! Do that thought over. And move in the direction that you choose to go. Where there is will, there is a way. If you go to our show notes at www.fit4mom.com/podcast, I will have links to The Marshmallow Test and Dr. McCongigal’s video on will power.

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