Whether you believe your willpower is strong or weak, it’s important to remember that it’s a limited resource to begin with. We need to deploy it selectively and discerningly, a little at a time, only as necessary.
But then, how do we ensure we make beneficial changes in our lives? How do we inculcate good habits and practices?
This episode is all about manipulating your world to support you in your positive changes, and make it easy for yourself so you won’t need to depend on your willpower so much.
Listen on the embedded player below, or on your preferred podcast platform. If reading is your jam, then scroll down for the transcript. Enjoy! 🙂
“You can change the circumstances around you, manipulate your situation, manipulate your life, so that you won’t have to use your willpower all the time. And then when it’s time for you to actually use the willpower, when it’s truly needed, you can use it in small doses. In a very discerning, very sensible way you can deploy it.”Susmitha Veganosaurus – The Feel Good Factor Podcast
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Transcript of episode about how Willpower is a Limited Resource
(gently edited for a better reading experience)
I have been on a roll this past week! So full of flow and inspiration. And I’ve just created so much, it’s incredible. I’m surprised with my own self.
I think it could be because of the two week hiatus. I had to rest and not talk and everything. So the moment I became okay last week, I first of course recorded last week’s podcast episode, but I didn’t feel like stopping at that. So I started building this new course for multi-passionates. I recorded so much of audio content for that.
And then I created a survey so that I could get more information from multi-passionate entrepreneurs and creators and stuff so that I could fine tune the course for them even better.
I’ll tell you all about the course soon when I announce it. Right now I’m still working on it. But if you are a multi passionate yourself, then drop me an email and let me know.
A multi-passionate is someone who has more than just one interest
Someone who wants to do more than just one thing with their life, who wants to do multiple things. So you have multiple passions, multiple interests, multiple talents. That’s a multi-passionate person.
If you feel you are one, and want to have a harmonious multi-passionate life, like a well rounded one where you’re getting to explore many things, but also gently growing and flowing, then this course is for you. So drop me an email and I’m going to send you a link to that survey, so that you can tell me what you want me to include in the course.
Today’s episode is all about willpower
So here’s the thing, willpower is a limited resource. Let that sink in. Willpower is a limited resource. A lot of us when we want to achieve something or get a change to happen in our lives, we feel like we can rely completely on our willpower.
In fact, so many people are proud of that, “oh, I have a very strong willpower. I can do anything, I can make anything happen.” And some of us think, “oh God, I don’t have enough willpower. I’m very weak willed. So there’s nothing I can do. I can’t achieve this thing, I can’t make this positive change in my life.”
Either way, whether you believe you have a strong willpower or a weak willpower, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter because willpower itself is a limited resource. There’s only so much of it that a person can have, that each of us can have. But that’s okay, that’s actually all right. Absolutely fine. You don’t have to be afraid because we understand that, “okay, this is a limited resource.”
What we need to do is create systems – situations, circumstances, manipulate everything around us
Make it easy for ourselves to make a certain switch, or achieve certain goals. And then deploy our limited willpower in a very discerning manner. In a very miserly way, deployed little by little. You shouldn’t have to use a lot of willpower, basically that’s the thing.
Let me give you one example. Say you want to stop eating too many snacks, fried snacks in the middle of the day. You have a habit of grabbing some chips and whatever, and eating those as a daily habit. “Oh no, I don’t want to eat snacks every single day. That’s not a good thing.”
So how do you change it? You don’t say, “I will look at the chips packet, but I will deny myself the chips and not have it. I’ll turn my face and walk away. Humph!” Yeah, that won’t work. Haha
That’ll work one day, two days, by the third day, you’re tearing into it and then just digging deeper into the chips pack than you would have in those first couple of days. Because denial has tested your willpower, it’s added that pressure. And then, you know, you give into things. That’s not the way to do it.
What do you do? How do you manipulate the circumstance, the situation?
You place your unhealthy snacks in enclosed boxes, and you place them a little higher up or lower down
Not on a table or a shelf which is at eye level. So your eyes shouldn’t keep falling on it. It shouldn’t catch your eye. What does that do? First of all, it removes it from your attention.
One thing you won’t be doing is, you know how a lot of us without even thinking about it will just grab this snack because you’ve seen it? We’ll be eating it, and in the middle of eating it, while other thoughts are running in our head, we realise that, “oh, I’m snacking on something”, right? It doesn’t a hundred percent dawn on you that you’re doing it.
So that’s eliminated because you’re not seeing it. If you’re not seeing it you will not unconsciously or semi consciously pick it up and start eating this snack.
The second thing is, apart from hiding it… of course you want a mid afternoon snack, you have that habit, you do want to eat it… so take some healthy options like some fruits, some roasted nuts.
Now roasted nuts are fantastic because they’re very satiating
See, what we like in snacks, especially savoury snacks, is that oily, fatty, you know, that feeling. And that rich feeling is there in roasted nuts and seeds. You just have a few and you feel satisfied, deeply satisfied.
So you keep those at eye level on that table. On the table wherever you keep snacks, in that corner of your kitchen wherever you store snacks, you keep these healthy alternatives there.
Of course, there are plenty of healthy alternatives that you can buy also. But let’s see what best we can do with the stuff in our own homes that we can make easily and keep. Because then it’s really healthy and really clean, you know exactly what goes into it.
So then you manipulated the situation
The craving should be really high for you to bend down or reach up, and then open a box, and then open the chips packet and take it.
We are all lazy, right? So you’re actually making use of your laziness here. You’re taking advantage of that lazy side, and counting on the fact that you won’t make that little bit of extra effort to reach and get that snack for yourself. At least not all the time. So that largely reduces your exposure to the unhealthy snacks.
Yes, there are times when the craving is higher.
Either, at that point of time you can deploy your bit of willpower, or, you can give into it
Anyway, you know that you won’t be doing this every day so easily because it’s not so easily accessible. So that is one example of manipulating your surroundings, manipulating what is around you – the circumstances, the situation – so that you don’t have to use too much willpower.
So you get what I’m saying, right? Instead of your goal being, “I will use my willpower.” Your goal should be, “I shouldn’t have to use my willpower. How can I make sure I need to use very less of it?”
Then there is the content we consume
When we want to either achieve something, or make a positive change in our lives, there what do you manipulate? It’s the content that you consume.
Let’s say you want to pick up a new habit. A habit that’s good for you – reading, or maybe working on some creative project, or your hobby, or doing some work which will help you in the long run, you know, on a project, or a business or something like that. What do you do? You start consuming content which is related to that.
So you start watching other people who are doing that. I don’t encourage much use of social media. If you’ve listened to my earlier episodes, you know this. I usually warn people against using too much of social media, or spending too much time on any Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, wherever.
Yes, avoid social media, but…
Whatever time you are spending on social media, make sure you’re following those people who already have the habits that you want to inculcate
So you want to start doing some kind of, say, crocheting. Then you start following a crochet artist. Especially if it’s somebody who shares tutorials on new designs, new ideas.
For a person who’s creative, someone who has a hobby or who’s interested in a craft, what really tempts us into actually doing that craft is seeing some new techniques, you know, new ideas.
Watching someone else do it, it’s very inspiring for us, we immediately want to go and start doing it
When I feel like, “oh God, I don’t feel like cooking, let me just make something, but I don’t want to go too deep into cooking.” Or I feel like, “I haven’t done something new in a while”. I just open recipe books and start reading them.
That’s it, not any one specific recipe. I just open the book and flip through it. While I’m flipping through it, already I’m feeling this itch inside. “Ah I have to try this, I have to try that out.” And then I feel this energy, push to go and try it out.
So this way, I’m not using my willpower and pushing myself to go into the kitchen and start making something new.
Instead, I’m consuming content that’s going to inspire me into doing it, that’s going to energise me from within to do it
Or you want to develop a fitness routine, some kind of, you know, “I want to do ten push-ups every day”. Just an example. Then you start following people who are doing that already. You want to start to inculcating a yoga practice? Watch people who do yoga poses.
Like I said, it doesn’t have to be on social media, you can be following a blog, you can follow a YouTube channel, you can follow many things. There’s so much free information online, but also you can purchase courses, you can buy books.
Have things around you. Surround yourself with these things which you want to do. That’s going to automatically power you from within to do it.
Basically, you create support systems and safety nets around yourself
For any change, any place where you think you need willpower, instead of willpower, you focus on creating the safety nets and support systems.
A few episodes ago, I spoke about process versus product, where we’re talking about how just doing something is more important than the end goal, what you achieve out of it. So you create systems to support you to do that. When you do that, the system is going to aid you. The safety net, the support system, all of it is going to aid you in doing whatever it is you want to do.
For example, I like to sign up for online courses – a mix of paid ones as well as free ones. Basically topics that interest me, I sign up for a bunch of them. For a while I was signing up, but not really using them. I would always think, “this nice course is there, I should sit and spend some time on it”. But somehow I’d just let it go, you know, one day, next day, next day… and then forget about it.
So what I did is, in the past few months, I put a little slot in my calendar
Four days a week, it’s there on my calendar. Just half an hour, “this is the time to study”. Of course it’s flexible. So on any day if I can’t do it at one o’clock as I’ve set it, I’ll change it and say, “okay, I’ll move it to three pm, but I’m going to do it”. And no matter what, half an hour a day I will dedicate to this.
Now thirty minutes a day, four days a week – two hours every week you’ve already put the effort into whatever it is you want to do. So apply this. You’ve set a system, it’s so simple.
Just put it on your calendar and set a little reminder or an alarm that goes off a few minutes before saying, “okay, now it’s time for you to start doing it!” Once you begin doing this, you will start liking it, you’ll start getting used to it. You won’t have to push yourself to do it.
Again, no willpower used at all because you’ve already gained a rhythm
Three, four days you do this, you’ve set a rhythm. So you’re waiting, you know, “the alarm’s going to ring, and then I’m going to sit down study for half an hour. Do some course.” Online course, or read a book, whatever it is, these systems that you set around yourself make a world of difference.
Then the friends that you have, that also. Not necessarily just friends, but the circle of people you surround yourself with on a regular basis. Peer pressure is not something just teenagers face. Getting influenced by friends around us and doing things. All of us are susceptible to outside influence.
We keep watching people around us do certain things, without even realising, those habits, those mannerisms, all that we start picking up. There’s a saying which goes something like, “the five people you spend most of your time with, make you who you are”. So who are you spending most of your time with?
Curate your friendships based on your desires and goals of who you want to be
Now, there are some things which come easily to you, you’re really good at it. In that case, you won’t need to use much willpower. And it doesn’t matter who’s surrounding you related to those particular situations.
But there are many cases where you will need your willpower. In that case don’t be around people who are doing the opposite thing, the thing that you want to get rid of.
See, if you’re a smoker and you want to give up smoking, obviously if you’re going to hang out all the time with friends who smoke, you’ll be like, “okay, today one day I’ll go out and smoke with them, tomorrow one day I’ll do it.” And then it’s never going to stop.
So you have to start hanging around with people who have given up smoking, right? You find those, you make that support system, that circle around yourself.
Community is so important! It’s very, very powerful
I’m not saying you cut off your friendship with the people who do the things you don’t want to do. All I’m saying is spend more time, very consciously, with the people who are doing the thing you want to do, or who are the people you want to become like.
That is how friends and family and colleagues, that circle, the close circle, that’s how it influences you. Especially who you spend time with interacting with, whether in person (in person is of course more effective), or even online (online groups, wherever) on a regular, daily, almost daily basis.
Who you spend time with, it makes a world of difference, this is why I love mastermind groups
I’ve been a part of two mastermind groups. So apart from signing up for these self paced courses and stuff, I have signed up for masterminds. Both those groups, very different, but both have helped me at the point in the journey where I was. This is related to my business.
The first group, I joined just when I started my podcast. It had a bunch of podcasters, creators, solopreneurs, and artists. It had these people, and then of course the leader of the group, the person running the mastermind who was good at these things, particularly good at podcasting.
Being around them gave me a lot of accountability, a lot of inspiration
You’re watching others actually managed to do stuff, achieve stuff, and then you feel like, “yes, I can do it too”. I mean, not in a way that you feel, “oh everyone’s doing stuff, I’m not”, and feeling pressured. Not in that way at all. Why masterminds help is everybody’s at a different pace. Everybody is at a different point in their growth cycle, in their entrepreneurial cycle. But everybody has accountability.
So whether it is a slow pace or fast pace, we are moving forward. Others around me were dedicated to their business growth. They took it seriously, they did some things about it, and then they shared their own experiences, ups, downs challenges, what they’ve overcome, what they need help with. It helped me also do the same thing.
Then the second mastermind group, I joined when I wanted to switch my business running style to a much more gentle pace, gentle growth
People who wanted to take their time building content, you know. Especially content creation, but also doing it without worrying too much about social media, people’s validation, without keeping up with any trends, and stuff like that.
And also spiritual entrepreneurs, because I’m also into spirituality, right? I talk about veganism so much, but I am also a spiritual entrepreneur. I’m a vegan and spiritual entrepreneur. I like to bring holistic keys, holistic techniques, to all my workshops, classes, teachings. With the second mastermind group, I surrounded myself with people who have very similar interests and backgrounds.
For three months, twice a week, we would have our one hour call. Of course, there are a few people who make an effort, and they’re active, and few people who just sit back and don’t really do much. But that’s my choice, so I chose to be like the people who are active. I chose those friends.
The three-four of us who were active, we would support each other constantly. Helping each other, guiding each other, sharing our inputs. And that support system really helped me fine tune my business, my blog, my podcast, my writing style, so many things.
So again, had no need to use my willpower to get anything done
Things just worked out smoothly, because all I was doing is watching others, listening to others, and then slowly putting in my efforts. Because I was moved to do it after watching others, after listening to our teacher, mentor, talk about her journey, the way she grew her business in a gentle way.
Just listening to that and learning, that just meant that I didn’t need to use willpower at all, because I wanted to really do things, I wanted to make stuff happen.
These are all the ways you can change the circumstances around you, manipulate your situation, manipulate your life, so that you won’t have to use your willpower all the time
And then when it’s time for you to actually use the willpower, when it’s truly needed, you can use it in small doses. In a very discerning, very sensible way you can deploy it.
I hope whatever I shared has given you a lot of food for thought. Because for me, the first time I heard about this concept of the limited nature of willpower, and how really we shouldn’t be pushing ourselves to use it all the time, or even depend on it completely, it blew my mind. I was like, “whoa, yeah, that makes so much sense!”
I wanted to share that with you all today so that whatever goals you have, whatever good habits, good new practices that you want to inculcate into your lives, I hope this thought of using your willpower in a limited way, and instead, changing things around you, I hope that thought stays with you, and helps you in your journey of change.
Transcribed using Otter
“I’m a Spiritual Vegan Multi-Passionate Entrepreneur. I read voraciously, find humour in most things, and believe kindness and authenticity can make this world a happier, loving place.
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