As we approach that time of the year when New Year Resolutions are talked about, I’d like to share an insight from one of my favourite books, Willpower, Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney.
To summarise, while willpower is a quality we can – and arguably should – all develop more of, on a day to day basis each of us has only a finite supply of it. This is important when deciding we want to change our behaviour in ways that require effort.
Resisting a calorie-laden, but customary snack, because we’re on a new diet, requires willpower. So too, saying ‘no’ to our usual, relaxing glass of wine at the end of the day. Getting into gym gear or running shoes and taking exercise – ditto. Taking up meditation regularly – lots of willpower needed for that.
Trying to take on too many new changes is doomed to fail because our finite, daily supply of willpower just isn’t going to stretch. We may manage for a short while, but then it all gets too much: chances are we end up abandoning every one of our resolutions.
Which is why one New Year’s Resolution is probably enough. Rather succeed in making one, positive and sustainable change than fail trying to make many. Once that positive change becomes so much a part of everyday life that little willpower is required to sustain it, it’s a whole lot easier to take on another change …
Happy New Year everyone. Here’s wishing you all fulfilment and peace in 2017!
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