Some examples that researchers found include simple tasks we do each week. By going to the grocery store without a list, willpower is used on each item you focus on to decide if you need it or not. After making it through the whole store and using restraint on all the items you have decided you didn't need, your willpower is fatigued, making you more susceptible to give in and buy the candy and snacks at the register.
Another example is going through your day at work, making decisions. You choose what is most critical to work on first and which tasks to set aside. You choose where to go or what to eat for lunch. You make a hundred decisions, some easy and some more difficult but each one is using some of that willpower. As you leave work you have two more decisions, go to the gym or not and go home and cook or just grab something on the way home. If your willpower is already down it is easy to skip the gym and grab a pizza.
Since my daughter was born I have noticed my willpower can get zapped that much easier. There are now the added choices each day of "choosing your battles" that come with a toddler. Which things are important and which ones can I let go? Do I enroll her in preschool or wait another year? Do I let her explore and climb and let her learn from what happens or do I hover to protect my own fears. And then there is the willpower used up on patience.
After a long day of exercising my willpower, I go to work. It is just for a couple hours and honestly I love being able to maintain that part of my life. But willpower is worn and by the time I drive home it is so tempting to stop for dinner. I purposely look in the fridge before I leave to find something that sounds good to entice me to eat at home and ninety-nine percent of the time it works. But after my daughter is in bed and I sit to unwind, the willpower to resist that unhealthy snack is all but shot.
Creating a routine is one of the best ways researchers suggest we build willpower and override the tough decisions. If it is routine to come home and make dinner or only eat dessert at mid-day before exercising it off then it makes the decision less difficult, using less willpower.
My willpower may be feeling a little depleted these days but my love of creating routines is not! I'm grateful for researchers that make discoveries and then pair it with practical advice. I'm grateful to know I can change my habits to something healthier. I'm grateful to recognize where I would like to make changes and foster excitement about implementing them. I'm grateful to write it down because by writing down my plan it makes it easier to follow until it becomes routine. And I'm grateful for all the ways having a toddler helps me strengthen my willpower day by day.
What zaps your willpower? What routines would help you stretch and strengthen that willpower to get you through the day?
May today remind us to let go of judgment and focus on solutions. May we find the strength to create new routines and follow through. Have a beautiful day!