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Repeat After Me: Willpower is a Limited Resource

February 07, 2017

How many times do we say or hear, "Oh, if I (he/she/they) only had a little willpower, then I (he/she/they) wouldn't be so…"?

There is certainly truth to the importance of willpower and the idea that it is a muscle to be strengthened.

But willpower is also a limited resource. I repeat: Willpower is a limited resource (read more from the American Psychological Association). We can only talk ourselves out of the donuts in the break room so many times, and then we cave. In addition to building your willpower muscle, why not create an environment that doesn't require you to use willpower to make healthy choices all day long? Instead of surrounding ourselves with temptations, why don't we build our home, work and even social environments for success?

Some examples:

  • Don't be the person at work with a candy dish (or, ask that person to hide it from plain view).
  • Don't go to the store hungry, so you don't come home with junk that tempts you before bed.
  • When you feel pressure to join coworkers for a trip to the vending machine or café – where you know unhealthy choices await – take a walk with a glass of water instead.
  • Save your willpower for when you really need it.
  • Let’s use this limited resource wisely.

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