Willpower is a Short-Term Strategy. Optimize Your Environment For Success

Motivation is tricky.

We’ve all heard it before: motivation is the key to results! My motivation is high, I am going to finally reach my goals. This is my year!!!

Yes, you need some sort of “motivation” to get moving in the direction you want to be headed long-term. But this motivation isn’t going to keep you on track days, months, years after you set that initial goal.

So if motivation isn’t going to do the trick, what about having discipline and stronger willpower? Better self-control? That will surely help me avoid temptations and stay the course to see results. 

Actually, self-control will only get you so far if your environment is not set up for your success. Believe it or not, willpower is only a short-term strategy. 

If you have a plate of cookies sitting on the counter, it is inevitably only a matter of time (and trips through the kitchen) until you grab one — or four — of them and eat them mindlessly before you can sit down on the couch to relax. 

If your goal is to wake up early to hit the gym before work but are tempted by friends to stay out late or your spouse to binge-watch the latest craze on Netflix, your days of getting up with your alarm to make your workout class are numbered. 

You will resist the temptation to eat the cookie or press snooze on your alarm once or twice, but it’s unlikely you will be able to form the willpower long-term to override the powerful force of habits.

It’s impossible to consistently stick to positive habits in a negative environment. 

Optimize Your Environment

Instead of relying on fickle things such motivation, willpower, and self-control, look at your environment and optimize it so that you can form NEW and BETTER habits that align with your long-term goals. Make your good habit cues painfully obvious and your bad habit cues invisible. 

Here are a few simple ways to get started: 

  • Do a kitchen clean out. You want to stock your house with nutrient dense, whole foods. Think foods you can read all the names on the ingredient list. If there are many foods that are tempting, donate them to a food bank or throw them away. NOTE: This is something to get your family on board with first before you go tossing away their chips and cookies. 

  • Rather than binge-watching TV late at night, discuss with your partner about reading for 30 minutes before bed. You will sleep better AND sleep more.

  • If your goal is to workout first thing in the morning, before going to sleep lay out your workout clothes and shoes and set your alarm on a table away from your bed so you have to get up to turn it off.

  • If you catch yourself continuing to scroll social media when you need to be getting work done, put your phone in a drawer in another room for a few hours. 

It is far easier to avoid temptation than resist it.  Spend less time in tempting situations and you will find your “self control” is much easier to come by. This is because…

Humans are Wired to be Lazy

Yes, you read that right. We are programmed to do the least amount of work to create the greatest effect. This has been the case for centuries.

Since the beginning, the real motivation of all humans is to be lazy and do what’s convenient. If you think about it, this is a pretty smart strategy, especially to our ancestors. Energy is a precious resource and our brain is programmed to conserve it as much as possible. We want to deliver the most value for the least effort. 

Therefore, we are actually “motivated” to do what’s easy. The bigger the obstacle to start, the less likely we are going to make it happen consistently – the more difficult it will be for us to ever reach our desired state. 

This means, the key to forming new habits and reaching your goals is to reduce the friction.

Optimize your environment.

Make it as easy as possible to follow through and reach your goal. Make it convenient to make progress, even when you don’t feel like it.

  • Want to eat healthier? Meal plan each weekend and shop for all the groceries you will need throughout the next seven days. You will have quality choices for lunches to pack for work and be ready to cook something that aligns with your goals when you get home for the day. 

  • Ready to take meal prep a step further to make eating right even easier? Do some quick prep work over the weekend too like bulk cooking meats and veggies and chop up fruit to make cooking during the week a breeze.

  • Looking to exercise more? Get your spouse on board to join you for workouts to help hold you accountable and to make it more fun. Even better: join a gym with coach-led classes and a great community of people or hire a personal trainer to do the programming for you and make sure you are progressing towards your goals.

  • Trying to get in the habit of reading or writing more? Put your book or journal on your nightstand so it’s visible every night before you hop into bed. 

It’s important to note that “make it easy” doesn’t mean “only do easy things.” Making it easy means that on the longest and hardest days, you are still able to get the reps in on creating a new habit to cast another vote for who you want to become. 

We can ALL do very hard things, but some days we just won’t feel like doing the work. On those days, have as many things as possible working in your favor so you can overcome the inevitable challenges that will come your way.

If you are looking to reach health, fitness, or nutrition goals, come see us. With expert coaching, solid programming, and custom nutrition plans. We give you the tools you need to be successful, no matter your goal. Sign up for a free intro below or call/text 520-261-3944 anytime to learn more!