I'm reading this book, "The One Thing". And as I lay there reading it late into the afternoon, still in my pajamas, being completely unmotivated and captivated by my own laziness, all of the sudden, Willpower makes sense to me. Chapter 7 sums it up quite nicely, but these three facts are what struck me the most:
1. Willpower is a limited (but renewable) resource, just like food and sleep
2. Putting willpower to your best use requires you to manage it
3. When our willpower runs out, we revert to our default settings
One and two are important simply because they make willpower easier to grasp. More understandable, "like food and sleep", and therefore more attainable. Three, "When our willpower runs out, we revert to our default settings", is the piece that begs the question, Well, what are your default settings?
Not an easy question to answer. There's also so many settings, right? It's not just working with a yes or no pattern. We can barely even list them all out, so consider this as something to discover about yourself and dive a bit deeper.
How can we put the least amount of strain possible on our willpower, our decision maker, and what can we manage in our day to day to help us find some neutral settings that align with our values? Where do we draw the lines and when can we "give up"? What makes sense and feels easy? What have we "mastered" just enough so that something no longer requires as much effort as before? Where do we feel successful? What requires more of our effort, thought, and discipline? And what the hell are we doing in our daily lives that calls for more of our attention?
Is it in our sleep schedules?
Establishing consistent routines for ourselves?
Finding ease with our eating habits?
Remembering to drink water?
Optimizing our personal hygiene?
How we respond to and communicate with others?
How we manage and process our emotions?
Or in how efficiently we can work and our ability to maintain focus?
There are so many questions. Therefore, so many things to consider to determine where we feel as though we've created something that feels like success. Something that is ingrained in us like a default setting so that we don't have to flex our willpower muscle so forcefully, and still complete the task. And being that there are many things to take into consideration, it should also be a bit easier for our minds to discover the silver livings and remain positive or neutral to the whole self-evaluation aspect of asking the question. What are my default settings? When do we feel like "I've got this!" and we're "doing it right"? And what decisions, actions or settings feel energetically off? You can't stop thinking about how it could've gone different, or you're paying the consequences in some way? I do hope this makes sense. And if you're not following, maybe stop being stubborn in your thinking, and go back a few sentences to acknowledge that yes, you are doing some things right in your life. You are not a victim. And the silver lining is always there. You just have to work on those default settings.
A stubborn attitude can most certainly be a default setting. A setting we fall into when our willpower is low and it seems easier in the moment to just be moody rather than being kind or patient. Living example. Have you ever just been outright short-tempered or passive aggressive or stubborn in some way towards someone else around just because you're in a shitty mood or maybe even because you're "hangry"? You know that you're doing it, you're being a pain in the ass, mean, or rude, but you just can't help it. You can't control it and you aren't managing your willpower. The setting is activated and "it is what it is". So let me ask you, does that whole charade require a good deal of effort on your part? Well yes, it does, and I know that answer from personal experience. So then when we see something like this about ourselves through our own discovery, how about we choose to set the default (in this instance) as one that requires less effort? Not being a stubborn pain in the ass.
Of course, we need to consider the whole picture and so we peel back the layer at the other end of this thing to see if we can't make sense of it all. Another example where we have a default setting is in regards to our sleeping patterns. For me personally, waking up early takes a good bit more willpower than hitting snooze and sleeping in. But since I have more battery in my willpower bucket first thing in the morning, making the choice to flex it and get up early will help me with managing my willpower battery throughout the rest of the day. Ideally, we want our defaults to be the easier option... but some of them just aren't. We have to learn to manage our willpower now and put in effort, so that it can become easier over time. And as always, whatever part of your process you find yourself working on, just take it one step at a time.
Let me wrap this up by going back to the most basic pieces. Willpower is just like eating and sleeping. It's a limited resource, but fortunately, it is renewable with downtime. Just as with food and sleep, we can manage this personal resource of ours by thinking of it like a battery. Each day you start with a "full" battery (depending how you look at your glass, but let's just go ahead with full, because why not), so beginning with a morning routine is key for flexing and also managing your willpower. Will you sleep in or get up with your alarm? Will you make time to brush your teeth for the long term goal or mouth wash for the short term? Will you simply take a few moments to just breathe in your energy and sip your morning brew or will you frantically run out the door because you'd rather sleep those extra 20 minutes? Will you choose nourishing food to put into your body for energy? Or will you forget to eat and survive off of candy and coffee? Will you make space and time for routine movement breaks in your day or will you be stiff and feeling lethargic more often that not? Will you remember to drink water or just let your lips chap? To chew your food completely or forget to exhale because you're too busy inhaling? Will you take the stairs when you can or push the buttons? Laugh when given the chance or keep your smug face because it's easier not to engage? Be honest about your feelings or button them up because your story is that you're anxious? Will you set boundaries for long term freedom or remain caught up in standards? Will you make smart choices about substances or be impulsive? Will you say your prayers and go to bed early or just pass out night after night from never-ending work and stress and wine and never enough sleep or enough time?
Every day, you are faced with hundreds of questions, choices, actions, reactions, obligations, and personal resources to manage, like your own willpower, food choices, and sleep. All the while trying to optimize your life. Trying to make sense of everything that's coming at you so fast, while simultaneously trying to slow down so you can enjoy it.
Please don't just read all of these questions as examples. Especially if any of them resonate with you in anyway. I know there are a lot of them, but reread them slower, rewrite them, go back and answer them. Do some work around what you have questions about. And please, do tell me all about Your Default Settings anytime you feel inclined.
*Photo captured at sunrise by the talented Samira Waernlund. Willpower not required as heavily when you have friends to help you wake up!
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