There’s a cupcake in the kitchen and it’s got your name on it. But … you’re trying to be ‘good’. But … it’s 3pm and you’re hungry. And tired. And you’ve had a frustrating day and come on, it’s just one cupcake. Although, now you think about it, you had one of those cupcakes yesterday. After having pancakes for breakfast. Hmm, this health kick you’re supposedly on doesn’t appear to be going so well. In fact it’s going so badly you may as well eat the cupcake.
It’s 5am and your alarm’s just gone off. Gee bed is comfy. And gee it’s cold outside. But that half marathon you’ve signed up for in a few months time isn’t going to run itself and your training program says you’re meant to run 10km this morning. But … it is awfully comfy in bed. Surely just missing one run won’t make a difference? You’ve been so good with your training to date. Surely you deserve a sleep in?
You’re staring at your computer screen disdainfully. The words just aren’t there. Yeah, you know this report is important and yeah, you promised yourself you wouldn’t leave it till the last second like you always do (because … stressful). But really? You just can’t be bothered. You promise you’ll get it started tomorrow night.
That bottle of wine in the fridge is calling out to you. ‘Arsenic hour’ is poorly named. It should be ‘arsenic hours and hours and hours’. The kids have outdone themselves since they got home from school and you are beyond rattled. Whose idea was it to limit drinking to weekend nights only? Surely the achievement of only partially losing your shit tonight (as opposed to completely losing it) deserves a pass out from that particular mandate?
Negotiating with ourselves. If only it was an Olympic sport – we’d all be gold medallists right? When we’re in conversation with ourselves we can justify pretty much anything by bringing in words like ‘deserve’, ‘just this one time’, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow’ and the like.
And while I’m all for being kind to ourselves/cutting ourselves a break, there’s a line (it’s a thick one, but it’s still there) between being kind and simply lacking discipline.
Here’s the problem with discipline: it often requires willpower at our end.
The problem with willpower? It’s two-fold:
- Willpower is incredibly finite.
- When we lack it, we hate ourselves.
I’m not a fan of anything that sets me up to hate myself so I’ve been considering the problem of willpower for a few years now. And I’ve developed methods like ‘just start’ to surmount it to good effect. The problem with ‘just start’ however is it only works for things like the run you don’t want to go on or the report you don’t feel like writing. But it doesn’t stop you from doing things (like eating the cupcake, or having a sneaky ciggie) that you know you ‘shouldn’t’ do.
The good news is, I’ve found something that does. Two very simple questions that will put the brakes on that ‘justification’ dialogue you’re having with yourself.
- Would future me want current me to do this thing?
- Am I giving up what I want most (good health/fitness/quality of life/less stress/happiness) for what I want now?
At the core of these questions is something Hal Elrod mentions in The Miracle Morning:
Every single thought, choice and action is determining who we are becoming …
… who you’re becoming is far more important than what you’re doing, and yet it is what you’re doing that is determining who you’re becoming.
Pretty powerful right? So powerful that if you consider your cupcake through the lens of the two questions above and then decide “you know what? I’m going to eat that cupcake.” Then eat it.
And bloody well enjoy it!
Because when you stop relying on willpower for decision making, when you start making a very conscious choice between the gratification of ‘current you’ and the benefits to ‘future you’, you’re better able to own your decisions.
And being able to own any decision you make, big or small, is preferable to hating yourself for the lack of a very finite resource isn’t it?
What’s your relationship with willpower like?