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Willpower won't work

Willpower Sketch

Our culture teaches us that we should be able to make good choices by the force of our own will, and that we are weak if we cannot do this.

Why it matters:
The concept that we can use willpower to make good choices is a myth. Multiple studies of willpower have shown it is a limited resource (examples here and here).

  • If you feel like you've failed because you couldn't keep up with an exercise program, you binged Netflix instead of going to bed on time, or you ate 2 donuts instead of a handful of baby carrots, you are not defective. You are normal.

What you can do:
To improve your health without having to rely on pure willpower, you'll want strategies to help yourself follow through on your good intentions, even when willpower is low.

Here are a few you might experiment with:

  • Study the "moment." In that moment you give in to temptation, there is a likely a pattern related to your location, time of day, the people you are with, your emotions, or the activity you are doing right beforehand.
  • Change your environment. If the 9 pm cookie binge is a weak spot, get the cookies out of the house (or at least put them behind the crockpot on that shelf in your laundry room where you'll have to work to get them).
  • Meet new people. Try to spend time with people who bring out your best, and less time with those who make it more difficult for you.
  • Get accountable. Find a partner, trainer, or coach who will ask you if you did what you were planning. (See the Four Tendencies Quiz.)

Going Deeper:

Have a great week and a happy Fourth of July,

Dr. Topher Fox

P.S. If you missed any previous emails, the content is posted weekly here

P.P.S. Below are the pictures from my exam room wall which we are exploring for this email series. 

Dr. Christopher Fox I am a board-certified endocrinologist in Superior, CO, and I have been in private practice since 2003. People I work with achieve success when they learn all the ingredients of healthy lifestyle and the system to consistently follow through on good intentions. I use my knowledge of endocrine science, psychology, neuroscience, and human behavior to help people make meaningful, lasting changes in their health that they can sustain long-term.

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