How Willpower Can Help You Discover Your Own Power

Photo courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue

Diets are out. QVC weight-loss gadgets don’t fool us anymore. Quick-fix workouts are a thing of the past. We know programs that promise fast results are unrealistic and not worth the investment. Finding a way to sustain health, wellness, balance, and continued happiness in our lifestyles is very IN. We are no longer looking for a quick fix. We have all tried those. Clients want to find a lasting solution that feeds their soul and calms and focuses their minds as much as it strengthens their bodies. Everyone has a different goal and addressing those goals on an INDIVIDUAL level, and not making clients conform to a one-size-fits-all model, is what separates the AKT program from the boutique class model. I believe passionately that fitness should improve your life, not drain it. And that means looking for so much more than a good workout. There are so many choices in the fitness environment today and what people really want to know is HOW and WHAT choices to make to get the results that they want without getting bored or plateauing. I set out to create an answer to that through AKT — a fun, exhilarating, 360-degree lifestyle program that offers a personalized workout, nutrition, and community to support every individual and their goals.

Fitness is a LIFESTYLE, not a number on a scale. It is as much about the stresses that cause one to make the fitness and nutrition choices they are making, as it is about the choices themselves. Our ability to control those decisions and deal with the underlying stress is directly related to the strength of our willpower, or lack thereof. At its core, willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations to meet long-term goals. For many years, willpower has been thought to be something you either have or do not have. But in recent years, studies have shown that willpower can actually be “learned.” “Willpower is a mind-body response, not a virtue. It is a biological function that can be improved through mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and sleep,” said Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct. If you want to strengthen a muscle in your body, you use it. It’s the same for the metaphorical muscle of willpower: People who exercise their willpower frequently often have better self-control.

But guess what? It’s not just you! Willpower has become harder and harder to cultivate in today’s social atmosphere. Personally, I think there is a HUGE correlation between willpower and patience — mostly in regards to patience with ourselves. If we don’t master something quickly, or feel awkward moving physically through space, or don’t see immediate results from skipping that mid-day cookie, we lose the patience to trust in our own bodies and individual process in order to keep going. Our minds feed us with greater expectations. And in delving deeper into this problem, I think that our fast paced society, and immediate access to all things Google-able has taken a toll on our overall patience. In addition to that, social media is causing us a need for constant stimulation and, in return, it feeds us a sense of instant gratification without requiring much work or commitment. So we have lost a bit of patience with ourselves when it comes to truly needing to commit to a mental and physical regimen to reset our current lifestyle habits.

Photo courtesy of Carbon 38

So how do I improve my patience and, ultimately, strengthen my willpower? Start by adjusting your personal expectations to be less immediate and set realistic goals over the course of two to three months. It takes about 40 days of repetition for something in your life to become a habit (a new workout program, a nutrition plan, deep breathing for 10 minutes a day, meditation, the quieting of that devil on your shoulder telling you to sleep in or indulge too frequently ☺). The smaller the steps, and the more of them you take, the more consistently you will be exercising your patience and slowly strengthening your willpower.

  • NUTRITION: Try cutting out one thing a week from your diet instead of going rogue and adopting an entirely new mentality on eating (paleo, vegan, etc.). Instead, try cutting out that second glass of wine a night. Or switching out your morning bagel and cream cheese for a piece of sprouted bread with almond butter. It may take a month, but you will begin to see and feel changes in your body and overall energy, and making more changes will become EASIER (a sign of an improvement in patience and endurance in willpower!).
  • FITNESS: To improve your workout willpower, find something that you honestly enjoy doing! Whether that is dance, yoga, walking with a friend, swimming, and start adding that into your life twice a week, without requiring a set time limit. Just show up. Make it something that you do for YOU. Not something you feel like you have to do to hit a number on a scale. In addition, bringing a friend or building a community of friends helps make that commitment to showing up more fun and helps hold you (and your willpower) accountable.
  • WELLNESS: There are an unlimited amount of “things” we can achieve on any given day. Allow yourself the space to say, “I am doing enough,” and take 10 minutes twice a week to create space to connect your mind and your body. Whether that is a deep-breathing exercise at your desk, putting on a song you love and jamming out, or enjoying a delicious meal in silence without any distractions. Find time to disconnect from the buzz and cultivate what really makes YOU happy.

Creating the time and space to work toward our ideal lifestyle with patience and gratitude will help us break the “quick fix” cycle and develop a more realistic approach to fitness that will get us BETTER and more sustainable results, lasting for a much longer period of time (hopefully forever!) Ultimately, I believe that tapping into and strengthening our willpower will help us achieve these incredible personal lifestyle goals (we thought were impossible!) and allow us to move closer and closer toward overall happiness and longevity with our own health and wellness journeys.