09 Jan The Willpower Trap
How CUTE became the Habit Company
It’s often said the teachers and trainers in general specialise in those topics that they are most in need of on a personal level themselves. I have to admit, when I was youngER (I’m talking about my twenties), I was a basket case when it come to developing new habits. I would always be setting new resolutions for myself. Losing weight, building a steady study routine, working out, getting out of bed earlier… But the sad fact was that I was rarely succeeding in building new habits. I actually sucked at it. It was a very frustrating process, leading to a good deal of self-doubt. I had all these dreams and ambitions, but I started to question if I had what it takes to make them happen. I blamed myself, my lack of willpower and lack of “character”.
The Willpower Trap
Twenty years later I kind of feel sorry for myself back then. Because, if there is one thing we know about building habits, is that it’s not about willpower at all. And I mean NOT AT ALL! Let me prove my point, with some staggering numbers:
- Success rates of long-term weight loss maintenance with life-style changes are low ranging from 2 to 20% (Source)
- 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail (Source)
- One in four men don’t make any lifestyle changes after a hear attack, stroke or other major cardiac event. (Source: Journal of the American Medical Association.)
Lack Of Willpower?
Let’s have a look at these numbers. It would be presumptuous to think that the reason for these very low success rates of intentional habit change, is lack of willpower or motivation of these people!
At Stanford willpower has been the topic of many studies. One thing we know for sure now is that willpower is a very limited resource. Willpower if often compared to a muscle, in the sense that more willpower is the result of more willpower exercise.
About 12 years ago, I discovered through my work with CUTESolutions that building new habits, is not about willpower. It is about knowing and practising a correct habit formation process. I was so intrigued by this idea, that I started studying the topic in every way I could. I read, followed courses and coached others. But more importantly I tested and experimented with literally hundreds of new habits throughout the years.
What do you really want?
After working more than 14 years with habits, now I can say without any doubt that if I want to build a new habit, I know I will succeed. I know how it works if I really want it! The last point is the biggest issue now. I have discovered it is important to be in touch with yourself and really understand what it is you want. Once I know that I want something, I know how to get it.
And this, my friends, has given me enormous peace of mind. It makes my life more fulfilling and exciting. Being able to intentionally build habits, has helped me to acquire a healthy lifestyle. Habits help me keep life and work as balanced as I want it to be and run a business at the same time. And when life throws me some bad surprises I feel more at ease, because I know that I can develop the habits to ultrapass those moments. My life is not perfect, but I am happy with it and I worked really hard to build it. Two decades ago, if I would have known what I know now about habit building, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration. I would have approached so many things in completely different way.
Want to find out more about willpower? Check out Kelly McGonigal talking at Google and discover how self-control works.
Good luck with those new habits and wish you all the best in 2019!
Sarah (Owner CUTESolutions)