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Habit or willpower. Which is stronger?

Habit or willpower. Which is stronger?

By Jessica Ward

‘I’d be really fit if I just had the willpower to exercise regularly’. ‘I’d be thinner if I had the willpower to resist that extra cake’. Does this sound familiar?

We talk a lot of willpower, and blame it for many things. However there might be an easier way!

‘Willpower’ is defined as ‘the motivation to exercise will’, which is the ability that we all have to make an independent choice. We are given this ability from early childhood, and learning to exercise our choices is a vital part of development. As anyone who has cared for a baby older than a few months will know, children don’t take long to try out what might be called ‘won’t-power’!

As we grow older, human nature can make us move towards the less-difficult choices. This may not always be ideal for our health. For instance it may mean a night in front of the TV rather than a visit to a gym, or an easy takeaway rather than cooking a proper meal.

Fixing this may seem to be a matter of more willpower, which we know is easier said than done. Fortunately there may be a better approach – healthy habits. 

A study into how habits can help achieve goals produced an interesting result. It showed that people tended to follow the path of a habit when they didn’t feel able to make a choice that involved some willpower. So if that habit is exercise, much less willpower is needed.

This study seems to show what many have suspected; make the right things a habit and they become easier.

So build the exercise habit into your lifestyle. It is an excellent way to make sure that those fitness sessions actually happen.