In this episode of Learn Share Grow I want to share with you some simple strategies you can implement to not only recharge your Willpower, but also learn the best ways to grow new willpower (it's like a muscle, see).
All based off science but explained in a way that MAKES sense. No mumbo jumbo and completely actionable content.
Listen on the Podcast
Full Transcription Below:
Alrighty, Ladies and Gentlemen. Hayden Wilson here and welcome to Learn Share Grow live.
This is Episode 7 and this week we are learning all about willpower and how you can start embracing it to bring out your best self, and start to apply the discipline within your life that you know you have, you’re just not really sure how it all incorporates.
This is exactly what I’m going through all week and on today’s video I’m taking you through how we can recharge our willpower and also explaining a little bit more about how willpower is actually a muscle and that if we flex it we can start to learn and grow.
So I’ll take you through a few strategies to recharge that willpower and also that flexing and build it up. What I want to do first is take you through a small scenario. If I grab the camera here and turn it around.
What we’re going to see first off, and for those listening, to go through my story, this is the whole situation. The way the brain works is, we have a piece of cheesecake and a guy looking up – this is most likely me, back in the day, really looking forward to that piece of strawberry cheesecake. What this does, it’s a biological response, and it shoots up dopamine which is the happiness response drug within our brain.
Our brain then sneakily drops our blood sugar levels helping us believe that we do actually need the cheesecake and that’s because our brain there, is going fix this. From this situation we basically have two choices.
Choice 1 is to look at our ‘why’. Why are we doing this? And we can charge this choice by having a strong willpower and flexing our muscle. The second choice we can make is to give in and that is only going to do damage in the long run. Of course we’re all human but if you want to achieve the best result possible we need to develop strategies that we can always start choosing our why and have more of an emphasis on the overall plan.
The thing that scientists have found is that one of the best predictors of how much willpower we actually have isn’t based on our feelings, because that’s actually incorrect. Those who think they have the best willpower end up having the worst willpower in actual practice because they don’t have a plan. They think that possibly, and not in an arrogant way, they think that they’re above having a plan so they think that they don’t need it.
But they actually do, everyone needs a plan for what’s going to happen when the crisis hits. And the best predictor of this is to have heart rate variability. So to give you an idea of what can be achieved when we have a better heart rate variability we’ve found that there’s an increase in sleep, you sleep better, exercise more, you tend to choose healthier foods to eat and have better nutrition, you enjoy more times with your friends, quality time that is, you are more likely to exhibit in religious practice, going to church and whatnot, and you are also are found to get more relaxation out of meditation. All these things can help achieve a better heart rate variability and thus help with our willpower.
The next concept that I want to explain to you is all about, what I call, the willpower battery. So basically, with anything to do with willpower we have what I call a battery and everything, our decisions and the choices that we make basically either charge this battery or they drain it.
And the way that it works is with willpower each decision that we make means that we have less self control. The reason for this is that because when we do have to make a decision and exhibit our self control our blood sugar levels drop, like in the cheesecake situation.
Low blood sugar levels means less energy for self control because we need the glucose and the body needs it for other areas and our mind starts ticking over and wants to use that resource. So as a result of having less self control from the lower blood sugar our brain seems to think a lot more in short term and he wants to decide why you’re actually exhibiting these certain behaviour and start acting on impulses rather than going forward with your plan.
So what I want to do now, is take you through a few strategies that can help you charge your willpower so you can have more throughout the day and then I’m going to, well you can tell that draining the willpower is tough decisions and exercising that self control.
So if I take you in again, just close up camera here, basically we can recharge our willpower with a few different strategies. I’ve got 3 here to share with you. The first one is through exercise. When we exercise we have found that we have a decrease in depression, a decrease in craving and a decrease in smoking. These are all the habits that we can exhibit when we start to perform exercise more regularly – that little guy, dead lifting there.
The second, and this is extremely, well I exhibited this behaviour just last week, if you can sleep more. Having less sleep, or if you don’t get enough sleep, glucose absorption, the body’s main – the brain’s main use of energy, it’s the main energy source, is, if you don’t get enough sleep, it’s actually blocked and it’s useless to try and fix it with sugary treats that your body’s craving. Or even caffeine because we have what’s called mild pre-frontal cortex dysfunction.
Now that’s getting quite scientific but if you really look at it no sleep equals a disconnect with the brain means your stress goes up, you make poor decisions and your self control goes down. The third thing I want to share with you is with a breathing technique. There’s not that many quick fixes that will help with willpower, but this is one of them.
By exhibiting your willpower of breaths in and out, 4 – 6 breaths per minute which is about 15 second exhales, has found that it increases the heart rate variability, it activates your pre-frontal cortex to make your decision making better in the moment, and what it also does is give a much better feeling of self control.
So while you’re in a situation where you might really want to have an unhealthy treat, by having this breathing technique you have control over your breath and this is used in a lot of meditation circles because there are a lot of things that we can’t control, but breathing is obviously something that we can control so by having that feeling back we can start to realise that yes, we can control whether we go up and purchase that unhealthy treat or whether we lie on the couch.
So now we’ve talked about some different ways to recharge willpower, I want to take you through some strategies to strengthen that willpower in the first place so there’s less frequency of situations or crises occurring.
What they’ve found are there are a couple of different ways, and I’m going to take you through a couple of easy ways, and then I’m going to take you through quite a more advanced way, but it’s going to have great results as well. So the first thing that science has discovered is that by doing small tasks that are somewhat difficult have been found not too difficult. I’m going to take you through a couple of examples.
By doing this it trains us that when the crisis does happen, to start making the more difficult decision, rather than just acting on our impulses. For example, you might like to try this week, to start brushing your teeth with the opposite hand. So if you’re right handed just brush your teeth with your left hand.
Another example is, instead of using your right hand to open doors, start using your left hand. These are all small but achievable tasks that give you that feeling of control and that feeling of strength when hard decisions do have to be made. The harder of these strategies, they’ve found that it works better but of course, there could be slip ups along the way, which is understandable, is by resisting and then strengthening, so it’s a double process.
So what they’ve found is, they had one of the guys exhibit in a test where he’s a writer and he’s working in his home office and he’d go from the lounge room to the kitchen to the bedroom and just in between. And he put a bowl of M&M’s in one certain spot that he knew he would walk past – he had a chocolate addiction. By detouring past and going to his doorway – he had one of those doorway pull-up machines - he found that not only did he start resisting but he felt a lot stronger because he was exhibiting his willpower in a positive way and strengthening it.
So that’s what I want you try out this week. If you feel like your willpower is just developing and start with baby steps I would suggest you start using your left hand to open doors or start trying to write your signature with your left hand, just for example, and a choosing harder option, even though it’s an easy situation, but choosing the harder option of the two.
If you feel nice and strong, then definitely try putting out a candy bar or a Mars bar right in the fridge where you can see it first thing and then resist that, and then do something positive – maybe drop down and do 50 or so push ups, or 20 push ups, anything to get you started. Alex has just mentioned that he needs to get one of those pull up bars, yes – it’s a strategy that can work very well.
Just before we go on to what to do when a crisis hits, I want to talk a bit more about how sleep can affect our decision making and this mild pre-frontal cortex dysfunction.
Basically, last week I was on a 14 day streak and if you don’t know, I’m a former competitive eater and I do have a tendency, I’m very good at eating bulk foods, and I had a tendency to eat quite bad foods in certain situations and what I found was that after 14 days of perfect nutrition, I was getting 7-8 hours of sleep, I was really productive and when I started to move forward, I had a really late night. I wanted to go to the beach in the morning and I ended up getting 4 hours sleep. So to go from 7 - 8 hours and down to 4 hours, is – I was hungry all day, I was craving crap and I started drinking a lot of coffee – and it just didn’t help, no matter what. I had like 4 coffees, before it was say 2 o’clock, 3 or 4 coffees before it was 2 o’clock and for the whole day I was resisting really hard to not eat something bad.
In the end, to be completely honest, at the end of the day, I did have some junk food which I would say, before I knew the footage, I would be disappointed in myself, but now that I can tell from the research what was actually happening it gives me a much better insight into how we can control it next time.
So, by having that late night and not having enough sleep it made me crave these bad foods but like I mentioned before, no matter how much bad food I was craving nothing would satisfy, even if I gave into that bad food, because the glucose receptors in the brain are quite low and they’re not ready, they’re not available to take in the glucose that you’re feeding them.
So don’t even bother eating the stuff because it’s not going to be worth it and it doesn’t do anything.
Now I want to take you through (if I switch the camera to here) and this is quite a long video, thank you for joining there Daniel and Chris, and Alex, what we’re found is, I’m going to give you some strategies to what to do when the crisis hits. So the first thing I’ve got there is the slow breathing, 4 - 6 breaths per minute, 15 second exhale, the second thing I want you to remember is know your “why”, your want power.
We talked about want power in the first video – if you haven’t seen it, jump over to haydenwilson.com.au and learn more about the want power. The next thing I want you to do is push through exhaustion. So basically, what they’ve found is most exhaustion is actually faux exhaustion and when you think that you can’t go on, I want you to put something in there, a reward, remember why you’re doing it and look at the reward, and you can just push through.
Use that mental power and those barriers to really upskill your motivation. And the last thing is to actually resist sugar. Like I mentioned back in this first part, what actually happens, is the blood sugar drops and if you give in, the blood sugar will spike back up, but then it will crash even harder so even if you do give in to the sugar treat, it’s actually going to make it worse in the long run and that’s how we get diabetes and other sugar based illnesses like that. Sorry, I don’t play a doctor, but that’s just what they’ve found from the research.
So these are some challenges, I’ve got 5 little challenges here that you can join in. Alex, I’ll get to your question in a second, but you’ve got challenges to help. This week what I want you to do, and this is all going to help your willpower, is exercise more, and they have found that there’s no limit, or minimum exercise. It’s just getting out there, a 5 or 10 minute walk in the forest, or you might want to jump on the treadmill for a 5 minute song.
There are so many small techniques that you can implement. Get more sleep, that’s a huge one. Everyone should be getting, and I know that there are a lot of people that do talk about betting 2 - 3 hours sleep per night and that’s fine if it works for you, but for most people, we’ve really got to get that sleep and I’m going to do a lot more videos on the importance of sleep because it does affect the decisions that we make, and it starts to affect other areas of our life – that’s a story for another day.
I also want you to change one small thing. I’ve got the ‘flossing’ and ‘no more bread’ so that’s a small trick that you can use to give you that feeling of power and like we spoke about last week, the keystone habits – these are 2 small things that you can change and by doing those things you can have a flow on affect. If you want to learn more, definitely go back and check out ‘Habits Week’.
I want you to start eating a more stable diet.
Like we mentioned with the blood sugar drops, by not allowing your blood sugar to drop you will be less susceptible to give in to those easy, of course it’s easy to eat crap, it tastes good because our brain registers that – the sugars and the grains and all the easy to eat foods that we love, the high fat foods, of course that is delicious and our brain loves that stuff (sorry I got a phone call half way through) but what we need to be aware of is, that by eating a stable diet you’re a lot more aware and you’re blood sugar levels are going to just be stagnant rather than going up and down. The last thing that you need to do is push yourself, and this is an advanced technique, and this is what I talked about here with the resisting, you do want to be able to resist something that you know you’ve been trying to put off, and that’s really going to help.
So I’m going to get to a couple of questions now.
Alex has written in – if you’ve got a question just chuck it in the text.
Alex has written “Do you physically write down your why to review when a crisis hits or do you just think about it during deep breathing?”
What I do is, I have a plan ahead of time and I’ve already written it down but it’s not something that I actively write every single time, or every single day I write it in my goals or anything like that. I just know deep down what my why is, it’s part of – I’m not going to get into goal setting – but it’s part of my goals, you know, not only are these goals that I’m going to eat healthy or exhibit these behaviours during this period, and that includes not having the cheesecake, or I will allow myself one cheat meal per week, and I can exhibit that behaviour during that specific time.
So I hope that answers your question, but definitely, during the deep breathing all I want you to think about is the breathing, I don’t want you to think about different decisions – just think about the breath – and you can control that and that’s something that you need to be able to embrace – inhale and exhale, that type of thing.
If anyone else has any questions – this is the longest video to date, 17 minutes, it’s out of control – but any other questions, just chuck them over there or you’re more than welcome to send me an email or visit my website. All that information is available at haydenwilson.com.au.
Thanks for joining me and I’d love it if you could share this video with anyone that you think could use some help with willpower and of course, you can ‘Live Subscribe’ with that button up here somewhere that will give an alert when I bring out new videos.
I love doing this and I love sharing and of course, you sharing it with your network and tagging it with close friends and people that could benefit from it, is going to greatly help what I’m doing – and just get it out there because this is a free series, all I want to do is share the information that I’m learning with you so you can implement it into your life.
So, thanks for watching and I’ll catch you again tomorrow when we’re talking more about willpower.