My Way: Willpower Or Choices?

62065301085058808_6s1b1hwv_cWillpower – Something that many people wish they had more of. A quick internet search of the definition brought me the following definitions:
1. Control of one’s impulses and actions; self-control.
2. Energetic determination.
3. The strength of will to carry out one’s decisions, wishes, or plans.
4. The ability to control oneself and determine one’s actions.

I don’t like the word willpower. Yes, it’s a real word and it really exists, but I don’t like it. I feel like a lot of people use the word willpower as an excuse as to why they can’t do certain things. Like they can’t stop themselves from eating bad foods because they have no willpower. That really sounds like an excuse to me. Almost like their actions are being justified in their head because they think they don’t have willpower. Of course you can stop yourself from eating bad food, the question is will you choose to? I really do believe many people think they don’t have willpower, but I believe they are wrong. It may be difficult to make the right decisions, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be made.

There seems to be a theme with people I see who want to make positive healthy changes, but don’t. They usually seem to get in their own way more than anything else. People are so often their own worst enemy. If you are struggling with making healthy changes, do yourself a favor and get out of your own head. I think the majority of people, whether just getting started or a fitness enthusiast, are able to do more than they give themselves credit for. I’m most definitely including myself in that mix. You’ll never know what you can do unless you actually try. The feeling of accomplishing things you never thought you could do is unbelievable, but I’ll be talking more about that in a future post.

As for the word willpower, I prefer a different word. I like to look at it as “choices.” choices-signNo matter how you look at it, you either choose to do something, or choose not to. It’s a choice to go to the gym just as it’s a choice not to. It’s a choice to give into temptation just as it’s a choice not to.

When people struggle with choices, especially with binge eating, and they are looking for advice on how to avoid it, I usually reply to them with the same response – really stop and think about what you are doing before you do it. Think about how you feel when you eat the junk food and how you feel when you eat the right foods.

Usually when poor choices are made people not only beat themselves up and are disappointed with themselves, but they also end up feeling sick physically as well. Conversely, if people make the right choices they feel great. They feel proud of themselves for making the right decision. They feel happy they were able to stop themselves from making another poor choice. Of course they’ll also feel better physically from fueling their body with the right foods. Choosing the right foods is a win-win and choosing the wrong foods is a lose-lose.

I really recommend paying attention to your body, no matter what choices you make. If you end up binge eating, then pay attention to how you feel after and remember it. Hang onto that horrible feeling inside of you so you can remember it for next time. If you stop yourself from making a bad decision, stop and think about. Think about how happy you are with yourself and how great you feel. Hang onto that feeling and burn it into your memory. This way the next time you find she-loves-burgersyourself in a situation where you are battling yourself, you can stop and think about the outcomes of your choice and hopefully make the right decision.

Unfortunately, it often comes down to how bad an individual really wants to change. It’s going to be pretty difficult to change if you don’t really want to. If you find yourself coming up with reasons why you can’t make positive changes, it’s time for a gut check. If you want something bad enough, then you don’t find reasons not to do it. You find ways to make it happen.

I’m sorry that I don’t want to hear about how you don’t have the willpower to make the right decisions. You have the ability to do it, you just have to make the right choices. You need to get out of your own way and help yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to come do it for you, do it yourself. Choose to not eat the doughnut. Choose to go to the gym. Choose to say no to beer and sugary snacks and in turn you’ll choose to be proud of yourself and feel amazing. That seems like an easy choice to me.

Happy Lifting!

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13 comments for “My Way: Willpower Or Choices?

  1. February 4, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    I Finally got around to reading this. Great observation on the subject! Some of the science out there on “willpower” and “habits” is very interesting. It is interesting how retailers and fast food companies have figured out how to trigger the cue in people to get them to follow through on their bad shopping or eating habits. This is definitely a subject that has been fun to study.

    • February 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Thanks! If you have any insight on the matter I’m all ears. Very interesting what you talk about with companies figuring out triggers and going with it. Triggers is another part I’ve yet to dive into even with part 2 of this pretty much written. Man this may end up being a 3 part! The more I dig into this the more I’m finding out and the more I hear from others.

  2. February 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Unfortunately it’s not as simple as a single choice, Colin – people are creatures of habit. If you ate at a fast-food joint today, would that derail you? of course not. If Matt didn’t train for a week, would he end up fat? No he wouldn’t (no matter what he says 😉 ). Why? Because you both have extremely healthy habits. And because the choices you mention fit in with your habits, the choices seem simple to you.

    For most people, there’s a need to re-examine their goal;s and find what they REALLY want. Then they need to discover what habits they have that sabotage their efforts, decide what habits they need to replace them with, and start moving towards those habits. When you’re just trying to make choices, each slip is a failure. When you’re trying to change habits, each slip just shows you one more thing to watch out for.

    The first step is always the hardest – realizing that one’s current situation is due to the choices one has made to that point – not any external factor. Once people realize they ‘own’ their situation and are completely responsible for it they can make astonishing progress in all aspects of their life.

    • February 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      Doug I don’t disagree with you. Like I preach so much it’s all about deciding what’s important for you, realizing what it is that you need to do to make those changes and then falling in love with the process that will get you there. 5 years ago my diet consisted of mostly fast food, chips, oreos and all the high GI foods you can think of. Why did I turn it around? Because getting fit became very important to me and I realized how important changing my nutrition would be to make gains. My whole journey began with a choice. I know what worked for me won’t necessarily work for others. However what I look to accomplish with something like this post is to help people realize what it is they may be doing, because they might not even realize it. There is a lot of self sabotage out there.

      I’m actually going to refrain for going into much more because we have touched quite a bit into the follow up, actually. And while it’s not about single choices, single choices are what start the change of a habit. It all ties in!

      Thanks Doug!

  3. Losing 50 Laps
    February 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Interesting view on the word WILLPOWER. Actually a little eye opening – as I use the word often. Your right, it is a word, and saying it makes you less accountable for your actions.

    Going forward I will choose to say, “will I make the right choice”. Hmm. Good thoughts!

    • February 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      “saying it makes you less accountable for your actions.” That seems to be the case, and I’m hoping we can stop people from doing that and start making themselves happy!

      Thanks Amy!

  4. February 1, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Yes indeed, the only limitations are in our minds! We are our own best friend or worst enemy and can certainly do more than we think. Thanks for the motivation…great read!

  5. Luke Aubin
    February 1, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Speaking from experience I think a lot of people, yes, even myself previously, before I decided on competing, are scared that they WILL accomplish a fitness goal and have no idea what the next step is so they sabotage themselves into failure.

    I agree with Matt, you’re onto something here Colin, go with it! Great stuff!

    • February 1, 2013 at 8:47 am

      Hey Luke! Yeah this is something I’ve recently been discovering in talking with people. I used to think it was usually the fear of failure that scared people away but I’m learning a lot of people have a fear of success too. People seem to get into a comfort zone and aren’t sure how to handle what could come with a new body. The attention that will come with it, etc. It’s an interesting topic for sure, something for me to ponder for the future!


  6. February 1, 2013 at 6:05 am

    There is too much to comment on here, so I’ll try to limit it to self confidence. I believe that is what people are referring to when they say they lack will power. I believe what they really are saying is ‘I can’t do this’. It’s their lack of belief in themselves that is the deeper issue. In order to be successful at most anything, you have to believe you can succeed. If you constantly are listening to your own voice of doubt, the focus on achieving you goal will be so much less.

    I think you are entering into a whole new realm of psychology/fitness/motivation with this post Colin, and I’m liking it!

    • February 1, 2013 at 8:52 am

      Absolutely agree Matt. Lack of confidence is a huge factor, and the unfortunate thing is doing the right things and starting to change their body is likely what will ultimately give them confidence. It’s why I so badly want to reach people to get them to make the positive changes, before (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts) they become motivated by something they don’t want to be motivated by, such as diabetes and other illnesses.

      The unknown is a scary thing for people as well. It’s easy to fear the unknown and I think we all can do that.

      Thanks Matt!

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