Firstly I should say, willpower – shmillpower

On the way back from the gym this morning I heard UK Radio Personality Chris Evans talking on his morning show about willpower.

And how scientists say that you can’t rely on it for getting fit and healthy (fair enough, I’m in agreement so far).

But then he went on to say that its because you have only so much in your reserves and it can run out.

And this was where he lost me…because I know from experience and insight that this isn’t how it works


So if you’re reading this for techniques to increase willpower, well, I’ve got some good news and bad news…

Basically what Evans was implying (and I should say that I’m paraphrasing Evans who was paraphrasing some TV doc so take that as you will…) is that somewhere inside us we have a reserves of ‘willpower’.

So if we take this idea to its conclusion then it means it exists somewhere inside of us, like a little sack of fluid and thus a surgeon locate it in a post-mortem and hold the empty sack up as the cause of death..

‘Sorry Mrs Smith your husband had a heart-attack because his willpower sack was empty.’

Now of course I’m being a little contrary and I can see this as a nice visualisation to help people understand that getting healthy can’t be about willpower alone.

Fair enough.

But I do find this explanation kind of annoying as really, its BS.

The research backing this idea was that there was a study group who were about to take part in some exercise.

And ‘by accident’ someone placed a bowl of delicious freshly baked cookies in the room with them.

They smelt so good. And of course some of the group submitted and ate a delicious cookie. Some didn’t.

And the findings showed that the ones who used ‘willpower’ and DIDN’T eat the delicious cookie, actually didn’t exercise for as long.

The reason? Because they’d already used up lots of willpower in NOT eating the delicious cookie.

And of course the ones who DID eat the delicious cookie, who didn’t use any ‘willpower’ managed to exercise for longer because they had loads left in their tanks.

(Evans LOVED this! He gets excited about stuff like that…)

But the thing is surely there’s a much simpler and much more empowering explanation for this..

The people who didn’t eat the delicious cookie’s thought process/state of mind in that moment was telling them they didn’t need to exercise so much because they hadn’t eaten the delicious cookie.

Whereas the thought process/state of mind of the eaters was: ‘shtt better do more lunges because I ate that delicious cookie…’

So here’s the bad news, I put it to you that willpower has ZERO effect on your ability to get healthy.

In fact I’d go out on a limb and say there is nowhere in your body where something called willpower is stored.

And the good news?

If its all just about your thought process/state of mind in the moment, and you can really see this. And can see that the concepts of motivation and willpower aren’t part of the variable. Then you can get fit regardless of how you ‘feel’.

Knowing its just your own thinking in that moment and not some inner ‘willpower’ reserve means you don’t have to give that particular thought process so much attention.

Sure you might think ‘I don’t feel like exercise right now’ but if you know thats just a thought you’re having making you feel that way its very different to if you think its lack of something called ‘willpower’ causing you to feel that way.

Because you know you can always change your mind in a second. You invariably do. We all do. So knowing this its not about waiting to feel ready to get healthy.

Its just about knowing you don’t have to wait and committing to change anyway.

Now, that in itself isn’t always easy of course but I’d say it gives you a lot more control back, rather than feeling like some mystery reserve of willpower is in control.

So would you eat the cookie?