When we get ready to change a habit--say, to start eating healthy food, quit smoking, or start to exercise--we usually think of willpower as a muscle. As in, the more you exercise it, the more you'll have.
But the dark secret of willpower is, it's actually like fuel in a car. As in, it runs out after a while.
Why is this? And more importantly, where's the willpower station where you can get a fill-up?
Knowing why willpower runs out, and how to refill your willpower tank, can be the difference between succeeding or failing at changing your habits.
The why of diminishing willpower is easy. It's about energy. It literally takes fuel for our brain to run. The brain is, ounce for ounce, the biggest user of calories in the body.
The brain wants very much to be energy efficient, just like we want our gas-powered engines to be. So it automates everything possible. Anything the brain has to think about--taxes, to-do lists, even what to have for lunch--uses fuel.
When you start to make changes in those automatic processes, like choosing to change what you eat or to be more active, you're messing up your brain's MO of staying on autopilot to conserve energy.
That's why willpower, at the beginning of any habit change, is like the fuel in your tank. You're using it to literally power through your old unconscious behaviors and create new, consciously chosen ones. That not only requires thinking through choices--sometimes it creates stress too. Stress is another energy-suck.
When your willpower tank is dry, you're at risk of reverting to autopilot. That often means falling back into the habits you were trying to change.
So how can you get a fill-up?
Healthy food, water and rest are crucial because they biologically restore our reserves. Support from others, like family, friends, or groups, helps when our willpower's running low.
But there are two more ways to refill your willpower tank.
One is to help the poor brain by making processes automatic. Pack your new healthy lunch so you don't have to make a choice at lunchtime when you're already hungry. Put your gym bag by the front door so you can't miss it on your way out.
The second way is to turn using willpower into something very rewarding instead of something really taxing. Many habit-change programs advise giving yourself a reward when you reach a milestone, like a certain weight or exercise goal.
Here's a novel approach using the same idea: try keeping track of how many times you make good willpower choices, and celebrate those as well--because the more you use your willpower, the faster it becomes an energy-efficient, automatic process. Once good choices are automatic, your goals are easier to reach.
I use tapping to celebrate and congratulate myself when I successfully use my willpower. That makes using willpower fun and rewarding instead of a chore.
Here are two ways to use tapping to help with willpower.
Tapping Strategy when your willpower tank is low
Even though I am tired and don't feel I have any willpower left, I accept myself...that's just how I feel right now.
Tap the points:
I don't have any willpower left
It's too hard
I want to give up
My tank is empty
Can't do this without my willpower
My tank is empty
Check to see if you've gotten an extra little boost of energy or willpower from a few rounds of this. And remember, this is just a short-term 'fuel extender'; make sure to eat, rest, and/or ask for support from your team to fill the tank back to the top.
Tapping Strategy to help keep your willpower tank full
When your tank is full and you successfully use willpower, make it a joyful event. Tap along while you brag on yourself like a grownup encouraging a little kid:
Look at me!
I made a good choice just now!
Yay for me, it's so amazing that I can do this.
I get a gold star.
And it wasn't that hard!
It can get easier and easier
I've got GREAT willpower!
Having goofy fun and celebrating fills up our fuel tank. Tapping turbocharges the process and releases stress.
With a tapping for willpower fill-up, you're ready for anything.
Ange Dickson Finn is an EFT International Accredited Certified EFT Advanced Practitioner. She is based in the Houston, Texas, and works with clients over the phone and via Skype. Ange specializes in helping clients relieve stress and learn to thrive. As an equestrienne herself, she also enjoys using tapping with horses and their riders. Visit her on the web at www.TapIntoYourself.com or www.RideWithoutFear.com.
From the EFTfree Archives, which are now a part of EFT International .
Originally published on Aug 2, 2014.