The Willpower Habit

Today I rolled out of bed begrudgingly and with much prompting. It’s so easy to fill yourself with knowledge and know the things you should do, but to do them takes something else, “willpower”, ugh.

Honestly though I’ve never really thought of willpower as a habit. After reading The Power of Habit, last week’s book of the week, I’m at least learning that willpower is not just some force we muster up and that only the weak fail. Even though, that’s the movie loop I tell myself every time I do. Charles Duhigg actually describes willpower as a muscle.

Willpower is a Muscle

“Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.”¹ This explains why we start out the day with good intentions, but as the day goes on we tend to not do as well. Dinner is always the hardest for me to eat healthy. It’s because we’re tired.

“As people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives – in the gym, or a money management program – that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower became stronger, it touched everything… Again, as their willpower muscles strengthened, good habits seemed to spill over into other parts of their lives.”² Makes sense. I mean when I do things like say fast, I’ve noticed that my willpower to do other things as well with greater ease then when I’m downing a cheeseburger and fries routinely. This is where keystone habits can really come into play. Instead of focusing on a bunch of things you want to change, pick just a few core habits. When going on a diet, just focus on one key habit that will most likely effect everything else. I have the MyFitnessPal app on my phone that allows me to record what I eat, weight, and records my walks.

Preparing Your Willpower Muscle 

“Starbucks has dozens of routines that employees are taught to use during stressful inflection points… Throughout the training manuals are dozens of blank pages where employees can write out plans that anticipate how they will surmount inflection points. Then they practice those plans, again and again, until they become automatic. This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.”³ This to me is the key takeaway from Charles’s lesson on willpower. By preparing for what you are going to do in the event that you’re tempted to follow the sirens of distractions (name yours here) that pull you away from your goals instead of bringing you close. What can you do to stay on task to your dreams. Yesterday I talked about listing your 5 to do’s before you go to bed. What can you do to keep those distractions at bay? Those 5 things are the most important things and yet we get pulled away by drama, emergencies that are not really emergencies, email and social media, and other sirens. What boundaries can you set for yourself and others today that will help you achieve your goals?

Sarah Jackson

Vigilant Poster Girl

The Power of Habit  by Charles Duhigg

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