Give me some sugar…And a dash of willpower….

I read an article yesterday that suggested glucose could be “a limited energy source” that helps to fuel willpower.

I’m not going to lie, it took some real willpower to even read through that entire article, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make in pursuit of my goal.  I came across it in my research of the character trait, willpower, which is the first character trait I am endeavoring to improve upon.  It was published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2007. Now, I’m no scientist, but I’d be hard pressed to believe willpower could somehow be fueled by sugar. If that were the case, I would be the strongest-willed human being known to mankind.  I can put away sweets like nobody’s business, especially chocolate.  I realize my interpretation of the study is an over-simplification, and probably more like a misinterpretation, but it did cause me to realize one important concept.  Willpower is difficult to understand, and even harder to obtain.

There are innumerable resources, including, but not limited to, books, articles, blogs, videos, and historical documents on how to build self-discipline. In an article about willpower posted on the American Psychological Association website, a psychologist at Florida State University who specializes in research of willpower is cited.  His specialty is the study of willpower.  Obviously, I am not alone in my quest.

The ultimate source, and the only source that really matters, for helping me obtain stronger willpower is the Heavenly Father.  So, I began searching the Scriptures for tips on improving my self discipline.

Maybe one of the most notable verses in the Bible in reference to building strength [of character] is Philippians 4:13:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

In the book of Galatians, we are provided with a list of “fruits of the spirit”, one of which is temperance, or self-control.

The Florida State psychologist I alluded to earlier is Roy Baumeister, PhD, and he lists three components necessary for achieving objectives successfully, or, tools for strengthening willpower.  They are:

  1. Establishing motivation for change and setting a clear goal.
  2. Monitoring the behavior toward that goal.
  3. Exercising willpower.

I thought number three was sort of redundant until I thought about it a little longer.  My first thought was, “Okay, how do I exercise willpower if I don’t know how?”  I think what he means is practice willpower.  Over and over again, practice stronger will.  So, in true nurse practitioner fashion, I am going to conduct a measurable test beginning tomorrow.

My dear husband, at my request, mind you, bought me an elliptical for my birthday two weeks ago.  As usual, I was super motivated to use it….for about two days.  Day one: I got on the elliptical, ear buds and tennis shoes rocking along for thirty minutes, completing about 2.3 miles or something along those lines.  I felt totally exhilarated and like I had accomplished something great.  I’m forever encouraging my patients to exercise more, so I though I should put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and practice what I preach. Day two: My legs were a strange combination of Jell-O and wearing 75 lb shoes, so I skipped it.  Day three: I was still sore, but I knew it would get better with movement, so I got on for about twenty minutes.  I barely survived.  I was planning my obituary before I hit that twenty minute mark.  I haven’t been back on since.

So, an opportunity has presented itself, and I shall take it.

Using the above model, my motivation for change is multi-factorial, mostly for the health benefits of regular exercise, but also because I want to practice the same healthy behaviors I encourage my patients to exhibit.

My goal is to get into the habit of exercising at least 5 out of 7 days of the week, more often when possible.

I will monitor my behavior toward this goal by using my beloved Day Planner in true Ben Franklin style by writing “elliptical” on my to-do list every day, and crossing it off when and ONLY when it is completed.  There is nothing quite so gratifying as crossing off tasks from my to-do list every day.

Thirdly, I will exercise willpower by getting on my elliptical every day (when any way possible) even if only for five minutes, to at least establish the habit.  (I must give credit where credit is due, the idea of at least five minutes a day to establish the habit is compliments of one of my awesome nurses, Lea Bell).

I’ve found some other fantastic (and entertaining) resources this week as well.  For all you working moms (and dads), or anyone interested for that matter,  check out flylady.com for helping you meet and stick to goals for keeping a cleaner more efficient home (thanks for the suggestion, Pamela).  For an interesting read in building moral character overall, check out Ben Franklin’s Autobiography.   And, as always, refer to the book of Proverbs for immense knowledge in improving spiritually.

Wish me luck! The voyage continues…..
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