Every year we go through a familiar ritual that culminates with a failure of willpower. Everyone makes promises about how they’re going to do something better in the new year and then promptly forgets all about it before the month is even over. In fact, right now, I’m watching the usual influx of New Years gym memberships filter out after clogging the treadmills and weight machines for three weeks. Similarly, people are giving up on their promises to quit smoking, to eat better, to flirt more, to learn a new language – all of those self-improvement regimens that were supposed to make them better people in 2015.
It’s not that they don’t sincerely intend to do better. It’s all because they lack the willpower.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that they’re weak or bad people. Most of us don’t realize that willpower is a finite resource. When you run out of willpower you fall into a state known as “ego-depletion” – it becomes incredibly difficult, almost impossible even, to control your impulses. This is why it’s so easy to let your resolution to hit the gym five times a week slip to three… then to two… then to “haven’t been in two months”. This is why when you’ve had a long day, all you want to do is collapse on the couch and zone out to a Castle marathon on Netflix. It’s why diets notoriously don’t work. You reach the limits of your willpower and your ability to resist the siren call of pizza evaporates into thin air like Green Lantern’s ring running out of power.
Any form of self-improvement is dependent on willpower… so how do you make your will stronger?