6 Personal Tricks To Maintaining Willpower

Every so often I’m asked what I do, or how I stick to my guns, in order to reach the goals I’ve set for myself. Some of my friends have said I stick to my routine like my life depends on it.  While it’s *generally* true that I color in the lines, it doesn’t mean it’s a piece of cake all the time. Cake? Where?!  Is it chocolate!?  (See what I mean…?)

Some days it’s a challenge to keep myself on track, but I do have a few tried-and-true tricks to help me stay on the bandwagon when I want nothing more than to hurl myself off it!

Now it may be I’m already that crazy personality type that pushes myself extra hard…in everything…(and boy, is that exhausting!) It could be that I like routine. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen other people succeed, and I want to get there too.  Either way, these tricks do come in handy, and are worth a shot if you are having some difficulty motivating. . . They have helped me enormously, and continue to.

What is willpower, though, anyway?  Willpower is typically used to refer to that miraculous, supernal compass that allows us to abstain from whatever it is that ISN’T so good for us…  Or, as the dictionary puts it:

For me, that would be eating whatever I want, not getting up and exercising most days, and not following through with the things that will help me grow as a person, or in a field I’m interested in.  I’ve admitted to myself full-on how much easier that life would be…but when I think about the implications of walking that path, I’ve rerouted very quickly…

So there’s tip #1 right there…

TIP #1 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning the Implications

This trick works for me the majority of the time.  I don’t really consider it as guilting myself into things, it’s more that I focus on the implications of NOT doing the action I’m struggling with, OR staying where I am…which is not where I want to be.  I know that if I decide to abandon my dietary habits, I skip my physical activities, give up on something I really want to learn (which I almost did recently!)…I’m going to suffer on a number of levels.  I’ll feel more exhausted, depressed about how I feel / look / not achieving, my skin will probably freak out, the doctors (I’m sure) will be on my case, and I’ll very likely be in a shitty mood all around.  Bad for everyone!

Then there’s tip #2…which is similar to the first, but it puts things in a positive light (which, frankly, is where I personally prefer to be.)

TIP #2 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning…and FEELING…the Goals

When I focus on my goals, I get the most bang for my buck – more so than #1 because, again, I’m making this positive.  I focus on what I want most – whether to maintain my current condition, learn more about a subject I’m new to, achieve the next rank in my Martial Art… Whatever the goal is, I focus on HOW I WILL FEEL once I HAVE IT.  That’s how the magic begins.  How to keep it going?  Picture it as if you ALREADY HAVE IT.  Once you get there, you’re golden.  There are mornings that getting up and spinning is the last thing I want to do.  But I focus on the feeling of “that felt great – I did it, and I worked hard, and now I’m ready for the day!”  Focusing on the feeling I’ll have in accomplishing that goal makes all the difference.

TIP #3 – Progress Snapshots

Progress snapshots can take a lot of forms – it really depends on what the goal is. If it’s with regard to my Martial Arts, I’ll make sure to take periodic photos of my attendance card to see just how far I’ve come, and how close my next test is.  If it’s with regard to physical condition, photos go a LONG way.  Photos help us to keep track of how we are doing in the most real sense – I’ve caught myself being off track from pictures plenty of times!  It’s not easy to see ourselves as we really are sometimes – photos keep us honest.

TIP #4 – Staying Gentle with Ourselves

Life is a challenging journey any way you slice it.  There will be ups and downs, and days you don’t damn well feel like “making a gratitude list!” That’s okay.  What’s important is that you are gentle with yourself in understanding we all get a little sidetracked from time to time.  Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling fully.  Then dust yourself off, remind yourself how far you’ve come / that you have made it through successfully before (and I guarantee that you have!), and get to it!  Wallowing in our shortcomings is incredibly dangerous, and a surefire way to keep the negative cycle going.  Chin up  – you can do it!

TIP #5 – Sharing Our Progress

Don’t forget to share your progress with those you trust and love – I assure you that they will want to share in your joy, encourage your continued journey, and would be willing to help you in any way they can.  That’s what loved ones are there for!  You aren’t alone, and you don’t have to go it alone. If you are having a tougher day, it’s okay to ask  a loved one for help, to vent, or to ask for a proper kick in the ass – like being brutally honest! – when you need it. 

TIP #6 – Changing Our Language and Inner Dialogue

I’m as guilty of the next person of putting myself down, and putting road blocks in my own way with negative thoughts or language.  It’s vital that we work on using positive language, such as “I can!”…and using it all the time.  When we are stuck in a rut, or feeling miserable about past failures, that’s when using positive language (and / or replacing negative language) is the most important.  We must remember that there is always a new opportunity waiting – there is no better time than the present to get back on track, and we can do that at any moment.  Forget four letter words like “can’t” as they serve only to derail.  Make sure your language is positive, and you are on your way!

Willpower can be hard to come by all the time…but it is NOT an impossibly-achieved, elusive superpower.  The more we work at it, the more we will have.

You have everything it takes to get back on – and stay on – track, so long as you really want whatever that goal is.

So. . .


TIP #1 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning the Implications

  • DO stay honest with yourself about the full implications of staying where you are 
  • DO visualize, and own up to that result (of not following through)
  • DON’T throw in the towel!  You have what it takes!

TIP #2 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning…and FEELING…the Goals

  • DO focus on how you will FEEL once you attain your goal
  • DO picture yourself already achieving that goal (this is the key to the miracle!)

TIP #3 – Progress Snapshots

  • DO take periodic “snapshots” to keep you honest with your progress
  • DO take photos, as they are the more true picture of reality than we sometimes like to pretend
  • DO be creative! Taking a picture of a school report card, or positive e-mail from the boss counts!

TIP #4 – Be Gentle With Yourself

  • DO praise yourself with affirmations when you do a great job of making benchmarks
  • DO share your joy with those you love, as they will be proud of you also!
  • DON’T beat yourself up if you had a tough day

TIP #5 – Share the Joy…AND the Challenges!

  • DO share your successes with your loved ones
  • DO share your struggles if you need or want to
  • DON’T isolate yourself.  You don’t have to brave the journey alone!

TIP #6 – Change Your Inner Dialogue 

  • DO use positive language, and try to use it all the time
  • DO believe in yourself and say it aloud if necessary
  • DON’T wallow past failure
  • DON’T give in just because you are in a bad place.  Without change, it’s going to stay that way.
  • DON’T use “I can’t” or “it’s too hard” or I’ll never _____”

You’ve GOT THIS!

Fitness Humor – Laziness

So…it’s kind of like the people who circle around the parking lot for fifteen minutes trying to find a parking space close to the door…only to get on the treadmill to walk for an hour.  What is that?!

There was a sports store near me back home that had this setup – escalators on either side of the stairs. . .  

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I was always the ONLY person using the stairs.  Not once did I see a single customer take them up, OR down!  So you’re going to buy free weights, lifting straps, fitness apparel, sports gear…and you’re going automatic on the escalator?

No offense but there isn’t “an app for that.”  You can take them.  Or not take them.  But the benefit is in expending a little energy – I feel so confused when I see this specifically at fitness-related establishments. 

Sometimes easier isn’t better – and isn’t that the cool part anyway?  HELL YES, I worked for that!


Fitness Humor – The Easy Road


So these are two fine examples of not taking the healthy opportunity an activity presents – instead, these represent going for the easier, less exhaustive (and effort-LESS) road.  Yikes.

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I can’t speak to either person in the photos (nor their circumstances).  What I CAN say is that, unless I have an injury, walking the dog, the baby, heck…the groceries, is an opportunity to move my body and do something healthy and positive for myself.  

There are days we can’t fit much in, if at all, so those moments where we can move about are a gift. Falling victim to ease might seem attractive, but it only cheats you in the end.  Funny…but NOT!

For more random Positivity and Humor and Fitness jazz

Fitness Humor – The Cardio Conundrum

To do


Not to do…

I try – really, my damnedest – to find ways NOT to do cardio.  I’m a pro at excuses on the topic, and a pro at fighting with myself (maybe not tooth and nail, but pajamas and gym for sure.)

I tell myself that a caloric deficit is a deficit, who cares how I come by it.  But the reality is. . .cardiovascular activity is super important.  And scarcely reliant upon my preferences!  (Ah, but the world would be such a better place, wouldn’t it!?) I would do well to slow it down a bit, personally – and I have (*gleefully patting myself on the back!*) But. . .I should be doing it.  

The benefits are countless, forget that whole bipedalism situation!  Still, you are not alone if you struggle to get it done.

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I go through waves – some days (and they are more the exception than the rule) I feel great, and ready to sprint like the wind. LETS GOOOoOoo, LEGS!!! But it happens that I’ve been overtraining myself lately (I SO know better!) and there’s a severe DRAG going on…  A lot of the time I wake up and think to myself “welllll, I don’t really HAVE to.  Right? . . . Right?!”

Then I get really irritated because I know damn well that I need to do something. From there I work on my “I just need to do a little bit” strategy – that can offer a little boost every so often.

As for depression, it can rear its ugly head around now, absolutely – “But you HAVE to do it, and you know when you do, you’re going to push yourself.  So really even though you’re saying you’ll do less, it’s going to be horrible!”  (~sarcastic tone, laden with frustration~) THANKS, BRAIN! 

An enormous sigh belongs at this stage, followed by the unhappy ceremony of struggling into a sports bra, donning my shorts, lacing my sneaks, and grabbing A.) my iPod, and B.) some bubblegum.  

Whatever it takes!

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Whoever came up with the meme above?  They hit it on the head – the cycle I go through is very much in that order but – most of the time – I manage to squeeze the cardio in.  I’m not wholly proud of the shorter bouts but right now it is about maintenance and keeping in the habit.  That last part – keeping in the habit?  That’s THE biggest key of all – a little DOES go a long way!

And then there’s The Oatmeal – Matthew, from Seattle, his two dogs…and the hilarity of his brain!  Cardio ISN’T just good for your body, but it’s also incredibly helpful in regulating the rest of you, brain and emotions very much included!

I laughed myself silly over this cartoon – gosh he’s really got it down.

Are my sneakers quite so magical?  Mehhh…

But the feeling of having actually run and kicked some ass – even if only a little?  Yeah…it’s something like panel two. 😉