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. . .

In SUMMARY:

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!

Nutrition Humor – All About Buns

People assume that I don’t get cravings for deliciously-horribly-bad-for-me things because I generally like healthy foods.  I DO, people, I’m HUMAN!  

Sometimes the fight between me and my willpower is more of an epic battle than I let on. . . It’s a full-on throwdown sometimes because my sense of smell is really acute.  I try to remind myself it will smell better than it will taste…but once and a while a little voice will say “bullshit!” and go on to describe it to me. 

Sigh.

THANKS, inner voices.

The struggle is real!

Nutrition – Sweet (Healthy) Snacks

There’s really no need to reach for candy – I know it’s delicious BUT…when you haven’t had it in a while, it truly becomes TOO sweet.  It tastes unnatural and overboard, and never as good as it sounds.  That said, cravings are notorious for overriding your best efforts and willpower from time to time… A great option?  Nature’ sugar…!

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Eating TONS of grapes or mounds of fresh fruit isn’t necessarily recommended…but generally you don’t need nearly that much to satisfy a sweet tooth.  A small amount, a snack here or there…that WILL do it. Fresh fruit is also best (as opposed to dried, in which your sugar concentration is much higher) because it’s VOLUME – you get to eat a good amount of it.  The water and fiber content will help to fill you up, and it will be more than a spoonful of the other stuff.  

My favorite options are a couple of sweet grapes – I LOVE Grapery! Cotton Candy grapes, Moon Drops grapes – organic Fuji apples, or pineapple.

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Give your body a healthy option first – you might be pleasantly surprised that the craving for something that will derail you actually disappears.

Other in the world of DELICIOUSness…

Wait…120 Calorie LAVA CAKE!?

I came across this recipe on FoodieFiasco the other day and nearly fell over.  120 calories for the awesomeness that is lava cake?!  SIGN ME UP!

Let’s just be clear from the get-go…because my jumping for joy chocolate dance may seem a little strange, especially to those who regularly indulge in sweets.  For starters, I don’t eat sugary foods – Fresh fruit and maybe whatever is in my coconut creamer constitute the bulk of my regular intake.  I never order dessert when I’m out, and I haven’t in years – if it isn’t in front of me, it’s much easier to behave.

I have the kind of willpower that would have the Gods (take your pick of the Pantheons) emerald with envy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to cuddle up to all things warm and chocolatey sometimes!  I also work my ass off when I’m in the gym, doing cardio, or attending my Martial Arts classes, so the idea that I’d be negating those efforts for short-term, short-lived deliciousness doesn’t balance out.  “It smells better than it tastes!” I remind myself.  

Often.

My crazy habit – and total “cheat” – is snagging a Dr. Praeger’s chocolate chip muffin in the middle of the night.  But the prospect of a lava cake for the same amount of calories?  I’m not going to lie, it’s more than kind of tempting to whip up the ingredients and have it ready when I wake up…

Anyway, this is designed for one person – I rather like that idea since you don’t end up with more than one serving (that will – make no mistake – be heard calling even when the fridge door is shut.  Amazing how those voices work!)  A little bit annoying from an ingredient prep standpoint but whatever – once you get the hang of the recipe, maybe it will be easier! 🙂

I don’t really cook much, but I might be willing to give this one a go… Volcano cakes are probably the one dessert I actually WOULD break down and have…were my Olympian self-discipline to falter.  Which (furrowing brow into a determined look) it won’t.  (And thanks to this rockin’ recipe, I don’t have to chance it either!)

PS, check out my Low Cal Yums board on Pinterest.  Ohhhh, the shenanigans! 

 

Healthy Mother’s Day

I’m a firm believer that you can be healthy on “holidays” and at celebrations, and still really enjoy yourself and stay full!  

This weekend I had the fortune to be with my family, and the tradition is to go to this INSANE brunch (I’m sorry I didn’t take a photo of the dessert table – it is always outrageous!  Cakes, pies, truffles, candies, ice cream bar… It *could be* trouble…)

But there are also, among the countless buffet options, healthy choices too.  I prefer everything as simple and clean as possible – with a buffet, that often takes being a little bit more selective, but it is indeed achievable!

I headed for some of the best options this particular crew offers – shellfish, fruit, and grilled veggies.  A little olive oil can actually be a good thing, so despite that I don’t use much myself (or allow it at a restaurant, where they can easily be too heavy-handed) I certainly didn’t mind here.  Shrimp, lobster and crab are terrific options – high in protein, low in calories, and definitely filling.  

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Fruit is always a great option too – the volume from the water content helps to fill you up, and the natural sugar can help stave off that sneaky sweet tooth!  The latter is incredibly important because sometimes we don’t eat the goodies because we are even hungry – it’s a “oh-it’s-there-why-not” kind of thing.  If you do fill up with nature’s sweets, you help give yourself more reason NOT to go bingeing on the bad stuff!

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We also keeps fresh fruits around the house – my whole family snacks (me most of all!) It’s helpful to have healthy options around not only for those need-to-munch moments, but also sometimes as a pre-pigout-filler!  If you feel like you might go overboard when you go to a celebratory meal, event, buffet, etc…try having a little something healthy beforehand so you aren’t ravenous when you get there!  It’s a great way to stay on track, but to still enjoy the fun!

For more of my meals and deliciousness

 

Hungry Girl Cruise

So I’ve followed Lisa Lilien since she founded Hungry Girl back in the early 2000’s.  Having been through two eating disorders, as a result of PTSD, I was more mindful than ever about what I ate (to get WELL, that is.)  What I loved about Lisa’s blog was that she shared healthier options, but also kept things realistic.  She isn’t a nutritionist, but she likes to eat, she likes to eat on the healthier side of things, and she loves to share what she learns along the way.

I recently read that Hungry Girl is organizing a cruise with Royal Caribbean, aiming at January 2017.  I smiled because I DESPISE cruises.  There, I said it!  I know the many people love them but…I always felt uncomfortable about being confined to a space (albeit a large one!) with the predominant focus being on FOOD.  I mean…I have awesome willpower but let’s be honest…being surrounded by goodies makes it tough to have a good time – you feel this pressure to “be good” when all you see are delicious, not-so-healthy options!

But a cruise run by Hungry Girl?!  Holy smokes, that’s AMAZING!  The concept is one I absolutely love – for people who DO enjoy cruises, this offers them the opportunity to have the best of the islands, the onboard fun, AND healthy selections for their meals.  

All too often I hear people lament after a week-long vacation that they had “too much” and went “overboard” with the food.  Well…if this cruise comes to pass, you will not only have the great vacation you are looking for but you will also come home feeling great about yourself (and not overstuffed!)

Brilliant, Ms. Lilien!

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