The bank of willpower

by | | Mini Blog Series

It’s around this time of year that most people will have already given up on their New Year resolutions. Research has shown that roughly only 9% of people who make a New Year’s Resolution will actually succeed.

After gaining my degree I spent 8 years working in health clubs. You could guarantee that every January there’d be a massive influx of people eager to get fit and lose weight, determined that this year was going to be different. By mid-February, it was rare to see one of those new faces again.

So what happened?

In reality, there may have been a number of reasons, but for many, they would have simply run out of willpower. Willpower is the ability for us to deny ourselves short-term temptation in order to reach a long-term goal. After we start an activity we regularly assess the pain/ pleasure threshold to see if it’s worth continuing the activity. If the long-term pleasure we hope to receive is not sufficient to overcome our short-term pain, then we will stop the activity.

Our ability not to give in to temptation is personal to us, though what tends to be generic is that people overestimate their willpower. We also tend to focus on the benefits we ultimately want to receive and gloss over the pain of getting there.

It is thought that we have a bank of willpower and once this is used up then we no longer find ourselves able to deny ourselves gratification. How fast we deplete our willpower stores is based on a number of factors.

Our stress levels play an important role. The more stress we have in our lives then the more we deplete our willpower.

The amount of sleep we get is also critical. There is certainly no need to try and get in the mythical 8 hours of sleep a night but you do need to get the sleep that your body needs to function at its best.

So you can greatly improve your chances of success by lowering your stress levels and sleeping well.

Perhaps just as important is to lengthen the time you expect to complete your resolution and lower your expectations.

If you ask any extremely successful person how they got where they are today, I’d be certain that they would share a similar view – Be consistent, do a little thing every day because eventually your efforts will be rewarded.

So perhaps if you are looking to lose and keep weight off, instead of drastically changing your diet and hitting the gym, eat one less biscuit every day and go for a walk a couple of times a week. Maybe this time next year you’ll be slimmer and fitter as your brain decided that the short-term pain was manageable. 

Perhaps you might be interested in reading other articles from my mini-blog series:

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

Help! Why do I procrastinate?