Is Willpower all you need this New Year?

New Year’s Resolutions are all about the changes you want to make. But if change was easy, you wouldn’t need to resolve to make it. The New Year’s Resolution Show spoke to Lorraine Green of Therapy in Action, for her top tips on the secrets to finding the 'willpower' to make those Resolutions stick.

New year, new you…glossier, shinier, new and improved. Of course making changes to your lifestyle means breaking old habits, which usually means drawing on ‘willpower’; and according to studies this can be a psychological hurdle in itself. A lack of willpower is the component most likely to stop people their tracks.

Recent research suggest it’s how we think about willpower which can make the difference. If we convince ourselves that willpower is finite and we simply don’t have enough willpower left in the tank, we give ourselves ‘permission’ give in to temptation and simply give up.

Of course, finding the self-discipline to stop procrastinating and go to the gym or to resist having a cigarette does take cognitive effort. It takes effort because its hard work changing old habits, particularly when they are habits we enjoy! It is not so much that we don’t have sufficient willpower, it’s more like the temptation of the ‘old habits’ become overwhelming. When this happens, your brain has switched into short-term gain mode, over long-term achievement. ‘Falling off the wagon’ on occasions is inevitable, but how we respond to occasional lapses in self-control can make all the difference to achieving a successful outcome.

Ultimately, willpower alone is not going to propel you forward. You need to be motivated to make changes and have a reason to continue the journey when things get tough. Before you start your journey of transition, here are four mind exercises to help keep you on track

· Firstly, be clear about your motivations to change; i.e. why are you putting yourself through several months of misery, irritability and yearning. What is it you will gain by going through this process? Do a visualisation exercise: Imagine how your life will look if you achieve your goal.

· Secondly, identify the obstacles in your way. Apart from lack of willpower, what is most likely to stop you from achieving your goal; i.e. lack of time, busy family life, stress etc.

· Thirdly, having identified the obstacles, what is it you need to do, to remove or reduce them?

· Fourthly, at those times when willpower fails you, remind yourself of the long-term goal you are working towards and what you will gain. Remind yourself that you just need to resist those short-term temptations to achieve success.

And willpower? well... it’s not so much the power of your will, but your belief you have the power to change.

You can contact Lorraine at counsellme@btinternet.com or visit her website therapyinaction.org.uk

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