26 June 2012
Escape the Willpower Trap
There is a dramatic difference between knowing and doing. We all have places that we may be stuck. There may be something in our lives that we know we want to change; yet we don’t. A major reason we often fail is that we succumb to the willpower trap. Lasting change often fails because we rely on willpower, yet what we really need is skill. We all have unseen, powerful behavioral bullies that influence us and we are blind to these saboteurs. Behavioral bullies do not have one root cause, they can come from many sources, such as pervasive marketing practices, toxic communities, or life-limiting habits that include avoiding difficult conversations, boredom, stress, and lack of purpose, all of which impact mood and don’t support the life we want.
One way to overcome these bullies is to identify our critical moments. For some people it may be sugar, others staying in a toxic relationship. In a moment of weakness, we are pulled to the destructive behavior that we don’t want to be doing. Rather than rely on willpower, the key is to first identify our unique critical moments, to root out and quarantine the behavioral bullies, and then to develop a combat plan (skills) to entirely prevent or overcome those moments.
A client with whom I am working was stuck in an emotional nighttime eating pattern; she realized she was not eating enough calories in the daytime AND she was eating junk food to alleviate (unsuccessfully) negative feelings from her highly critical boss. She kept her gaze firmly on what was driving the destructive behavior. Once she identified this critical moment and the invisible bullies that were sabotaging her, she had a courageous conversation with her boss and ate more quality calories during the day. Putting the behavioral bullies under a spotlight helped her move very quickly toward her goals. If you are making a change in your life, beware of the willpower trap.