My Story with Will Power
My whole life, I’d been a couch potato who watched/read multiple movies/books per day. We never had sports in school because of sexist school rules (long story for later), and college was more or less the same.
I followed this lifestyle as a working woman too. Owing to work and general laziness, I had been eating restaurant food almost every other day. Until a few months back, when I joined the gym. Within a few weeks, I was eating clean continuously for a few days at a time! (WHAT). Not one sugary or junk food for a few whole days. What the actual fuck?! Was this actually me?!
After much deep thought, I came to this genius conclusion: I was so into my work out routine that I didn’t want to set myself back by eating junk. It was all me!
“It is all my hard work at the gym. I don’t want to let myself down”
“I can say no to tasty, sugary, carb-filled food because I have so much will power”
“I went to the gym for two weeks for the first time in my life, and that’s all that matters!”
After a few days, there was a revelation. Let me explain.
I was returning home from a friend’s place. While I was walking on the road to get my cab, I saw this pettikada (Literal meaning: a shop that’s the size of a box). Like all pettikadas, this one had these strings on which were multiple layers of chips – Cheetos, Bingo and my childhood favourite, Piknik (I swear it was the best).
I was drooling, but I didn’t give up. Here’s the chronology of the events that night:
- I resisted the urge to buy a packet of chips, for the way back home – yes, will power!
- Further along the road. I passed a cafe, a burger shop, and finally, the biriyani shop where I asked the cab driver to wait (Funny how I remember all the restaurants on the way, to later direct cab drivers). Again, I resisted the urge to buy something from one of those places – will power!
- During the drive back home, I noticed quite a lot of restaurants. There was Zaitoon, Coal Barbeques, Aasife Biriyani, Dominos, Pizza Hut. Not once did I consider buying dinner from one of those restaurants – will power!
- By the time I got home, I was super hungry (no thanks to all these things that had been tempting me). I resisted the urge to order food online – will power! – I went to the kitchen, fixed some food for myself, and had dinner.
- And that was when it happened: B had ordered takeout from the neighbouring Mallu restaurant – Porotta and Beef Roast (Much Mallu, Such Cliche). I looked at him eating – the crispy porotta, that naadan whiff of curry leaves, the gravy and of course, the beef that’s cooked just right. [Watch video for full effect]
- My willpower shattered – I simply couldn’t resist. I dug into his dinner, and didn’t stop until I felt like crap. (Which is when you normally figure out that you’re full).
I ate the porotta not out of hunger, but out of failed willpower.
It didn’t matter that my stomach was full. My brain had had it with the resistance, and body could do nothing about it.
So, what just happened?
How the Hell Did I Do It?
It was a few days after this incident that I saw Simon Sinek’s interview, where he talks about smartphone addiction.
And I pondered – how did I manage to eat clean for those few days anyway? Why was my will power strong for those few days?
The answer: it was a coincidence. My ‘strict diet’ coincided with my working from home. And working from home had its ‘advantages’
- Since I wasn’t traveling to/from work, I was exposed to zero pettikadas, zero restuarants, and zero hoardings. Just me and the four walls of my apartment.
- Since I wasn’t traveling everyday, I found more time and energy to cook. Having food at home is a great deterrent to eating out.
- If I did have any free time, I went to the gym.
- And even if I had time after gym, I would be too tired to go out for anything, let alone food
I was merely not seeing enough junk food, and because of that, it was easier for me to eat healthy. I wasn’t distracted by flashy ads or red logos. That.was.all – there was nothing about my willpower. It has always been a weakling, and will always be.
My Will Power is a Limited Resource
That night, on my way home, I said ‘NO’ to myself multiple times. I used my will power against my natural response of “Eat all the things.”
From the limited amount of willpower that I had, I used some at the pettikada, some on the way home, and by the time I fixed dinner, I was completely drained out of will power!
While devouring that porotta and breaking my healthy diet, I still knew about ‘my hard work at the gym’, and that ‘having junk food would set me back’. But none of these thoughts really mattered when I had full access to that porotta, beef and curry leaves right in front of my eyes .
Lesson Learnt: My will power is a limited resource – and I will not use it unnecessarily.
How to Hack Your Will Power
It’s simple: Avoid contact.
Each time you say no to yourself, you are using your will power. If you frequently keep getting into situations that force you to say no, your will power reserve goes down too much too fast. And you’re closer to giving in. The mission is to reduce the number of siutations in which you have to use your will power.
- Trying to eat healthy?
- Throw out all junk from your kitchen and fill it up with healthy groceries
- Stop walking through the food court when you visit the mall. Not even to crack a joke. Years and years of research have gone by, before these businesses perfected their logo and colour schemes, that have been scientifically proven to increase excitement and heart rate.
- While commuting, don’t look outside. Either look directly on the road, or at your phone, or close your eyes and get some well-needed rest
- Schedule time for grocery shopping and cooking, make yourself forget about ordering food
- Trying to save money?
- Do not visit the mall
- Do not add stuff on your Amazon wishlist
- Do not Facebook, YouTube or Google about things you need to buy – retargeting will come back and bite your ass
- Invest in a dance class or some online course, so that you’re busy during the weekends
- Trying to feel less depressed and more positive?
- Take a few whole hours and unfollow/click ‘Hide this Post’ on all negative posts that come up on your news feed. It will be a LOOOOOOOONG process, but it will be worth it. (Trust me)
- Slowly stop talking to friends who only have negative things to say (Harsh, but true)
- Join that dance class or online course to keep yourself busy during the weekends
- Trying to excel in school or work?
- Don’t hang out with people who aren’t working hard. (Harsh again, but true)
- Distract yourself and keep yourself busy- don’t give yourself time to even consider the thing you’re trying to avoid.
- Do something and distract yourself with something you’d enjoy. Like an adult colouring book. (If you hate going to the gym, please DO NOT make that your distraction. You will not even make it there, you will simply stay back and do more depressing things).
- And please, for the love of God, do not consume/click ads that deal with something you’re trying to avoid.
There are two steps to hacking your will power reserve:
- Swear off something you want to avoid. Remove it from your homes, your work environments and (most importantly) your newsfeeds. Walk away from it when you ever see it from a distance,
- Distract yourself with something else, which isn’t self destructive, and which you don’t hate doing
We are not fucked, fellow millenials. We just need to hack our way out of this.