June 10, 2013

Willpower!

Willpower – It’s Contagious!

I returned home from the annual National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Conference last month in New Orleans all fired up with many new things to think about and implement. It always takes me a few weeks to calm down and carry on. You see, Conference is not a place where one goes to learn how to organize, but rather where one learns the science behind the many reasons why we have trouble with our clutter (mental & physical)….turns out we are all so different with our individual struggles with stuff.

One of the main speakers that I found particularly interesting was Kelly McGonigal , Ph.D. from Stanford University. In her talk, titled “The Willpower Instinct”, she noted that, according to the American Psychological Association, Americans name the #1 reason for not achieving their goals as “not enough willpower”.

I have to say willpower has been a constant companion in my life. As a lifelong ballet dancer I guess I learned it early with all the dance classes. Willpower comes in handy with any number of things. Like going to Target and not buying another  candle, tee-shirt, dress etc. Or not eating that Haagen Daz dixie cup after dinner. Mostly, I use willpower to call my best self forward. To say the words to myself, “I will” or “I won’t”, and to know that the power to decide is within me. That handy little power thing – pretty amazing!

You’ve probably noticed that stress greatly affects our willpower. The more stressed we are, the harder it is to say “No”. We had a big bomb scare at Conference and had to evacuate the hotel. Very scary. I ate dessert that night.

So how can we support ourselves through stressful times?

Hold your intention in front of you. Identify your big goal. Do small things to reinforce your commitment to the goal. Support yourself. Create systems to remind you of what your goals are. If you lose your willpower briefly, understand that you can get it back. Guilt and shame sabotage self control, so go easy on yourself. An occasional Dixie cup is not such a bad thing. See the best and be kind to yourself. Your willpower is there!

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