By William Singleton

I was planning on writing a short article about habits and how to create good habits. I have been reading a great book titled: The Power of Habit – Why we do what we do and how to change by Charles Duhigg.  But instead of talking specifically about habits, which I will address later, I want to talk about “Will Power” and how it influences habits.

What does will power have to do with habits? Let’s say you want to change your habit of getting a sweet treat at the end of the day when you are feeling a little bored. Some days you have great success and end your day feeling good about not having that sweet treat. Then there are days when you have polished off a coffee packed with sugar and a mid size bag of M & M’s with peanuts (yum). But now you feel bad because you fell back into your bad habit.

Studies have been shown that will power, when nurtured and encouraged, can influence our habits. But how do you build will power, and how does any of this really help in our ability to deliver great services to the people we work with and the animals we care for?  

If at the end of the day you tend to go for a sweet treat and you want to stop, you have to come up with an alternative to the treat that gives you the same sense of satisfaction. For example, maybe instead of getting that treat you take a break for 5 to 10 minutes - talk with a coworker or take a walk through the building. To strengthen your resolve you remove all candy and sweets from your office. On day 1 you have a great meeting with your boss to start the day and then you have excellent outcomes on the clinical cases you have been managing. Come mid afternoon when you get that nudge, you quickly shake it off by going for a little walk in the court yard of your building and you return to work refreshed and whistling a tune. On day 2 you get to work late, your boss gives you some bogus assignment and you have a contentious meeting with the husbandry manager, not sure how you maintained the little bit of professionalism you had left. Come mid afternoon and that nudge hits you hard, you pop up from your desk and go for a walk - to the nearest convenience store and grab 2 bags of M & M’s!  Ugh!!!  What happened?  Here’s what happened: On day 1 things went well and you didn’t have to dig into your will power much at all.  On day 2 the situation was much different from the start and late in the day your supply of will power was empty so you fell back to a habit that was as familiar and comfortable as breathing. Interesting how we often fall into bad habits at the end of the day or after high stress situations.

What if the habit you need to change is that you have a short fuse with people at the end of a long day.  Or maybe it’s hitting that snooze button one time too many just to get those few extra minutes of sleep.  Fortified will power says that even when I am at my weakest point I will still choose to do the right thing.  Depleted will power says that at my weakest point all bets are off.  

Here are 3 takeaways:

1. Make a conscious decision to develop good habits so your default actions will tend to be good.

2. Practice the discipline of will power; create a plan/strategy for how you will handle those movements when you are tempted to fall back into a habit that is counter-productive.

3. If you manage people, think of their habits that are less than ideal. What can you do to foster an environment where their will power remains strong throughout the course of the day?

So much more to talk about here so be on the lookout for a follow up to this on our website or my LinkedIn page.

Here’s to an endless supply of will power!

AuthorWilliam Singleton