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Thinking Directions

Aiding Willpower

Willpower is crucial to achieving your goals. From putting forth an extra effort to meet a deadline, to curbing your spending to save for the future, willpower is the force that turns your good intentions into reality,

I think willpower draws on a kind of reservoir of emotional energy. Because it is so important to be able to call on willpower when I need it, I do several things to conserve that energy by reducing how often I need willpower:

1) I schedule my activity so it matches the frame of mind I'll be in, so I don't need to use willpower to change my mindset. So, I write in the morning when my mind is calm. And in the afternoon, when I often feel restless, I play music and do administrative chores.

2) I create routines to follow. For example, in the morning I have a regular sequence that starts with feeding the cat. Each step leads naturally to the next. Because the sequence has become a routine, I only have to use willpower once, to get it started.

3) Instead of suppressing temptations, I take action to eliminate their source. For example, if I have eaten all I think I should, I'll clear my plate so I'm not tempted to eat more. Every time you suppress, you use a little willpower; by eliminating the temptation, you save that effort.

4) I take resistance seriously. When I am resisting doing something that I "know" I "ought" to do, I look at the situation afresh. If it is really the best thing for me to do, why would I resist? Often there is a factor I overlooked. For example, the other day I realized I was resisting starting a big task because a particular small task was more urgent—it needed to get done first. By taking resistance seriously, I double-check to make sure I use willpower only when I need it to do the right thing.

All these tactics help me to conserve my emotional energy so I can fuel my willpower when I need to.

—Jean Moroney


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