We all have a myriad of responsibilities and passions including our careers, families, dependents, household maintenance, and if there's some time left, hobbies and interests. It's hard to find the time and energy to stay on top of everything, let alone the discipline to stay on track.
I'm a proponent of taking responsibility for our own actions, or inactions, however, this isn't entirely our fault. Interesting research has been done over the past number of years on how willpower may be a limited resource.
Even though willpower can be increased with time and practice, there may only be a limited amount to draw upon, according to researchers. If you've used up all your willpower working extra hours and doing chores, it will be very difficult to resist that piece of chocolate cake or to decide to balance the household budget over your favourite TV show.
So what does this mean? Are we doomed to a life of underachievement and unrealized dreams? Hardly! We just need better strategies than what we're currently using. First, make sure you're working your will power regularly, much like a muscle, so it grows to its greatest potential. Secondly, make sure you have good habits. In his best-selling book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg does a great job of explaining not only what habits are and how they affect us, but also how to ensure you have habits that work for you rather than against you.
Ever wonder why most people brush their teeth religiously? It's because it's a habit that we follow almost unconsciously. In other words, it takes virtually no effort or willpower to do. That is the essence of why habits are so important.
A third strategy — and one of my favourites — is to get leverage on myself. Like many of you, if I can make not following through on my goal more painful than sloughing it off, it will get done! For example, say you wanted to exercise three times a week for six weeks, but so far, you've been unsuccessful. You could promise to give an organization or politician you don't support a cheque for $1,000 if you don't follow through. I've also heard of examples where people promised to eat a can of dog food if they didn't stay on track — which may be a bit much, even for me! This of course takes a certain amount of gumption, but it also is a litmus test of sorts to determine just how important that goal really is to you.
If your busy life is preventing you from achieving what you want, choose a strategy or a combination of strategies and put yourself on the right path!