“Everything will be different this year!” There are good intentions aplenty, especially around New Year. The goals we choose are sometimes a more active lifestyle, a healthier diet or giving up unhealthy habits. However, in the long term, good intentions are often as far as things go because our weaker self has a tight hold on us. Nevertheless, by using the right methods, it is possible to increase your own willpower and your weaker self can be silenced permanently.
The most important step towards self-discipline is knowing your personal “why” and thus becoming aware of your own motives. The weaker self particularly appears when the resolution we are pursuing is not based on our own inner motivation. It is thus worth scrutinising the intention behind a goal first of all. This should have significance, maybe even a deeper meaning for us. If thinking about the goal inspires and motivates us, the chances are good that we will also achieve it.
Putting a good intention into practice therefore only becomes worthwhile for us if the positive consequences offer us a specific benefit. It can thus help to imagine success in our mind’s eye: With better stamina, we finally reach the mountaintop, our slim body fits into our favourite dress again, further education opens up specific professional opportunities for us. Pictures can help to illustrate our personal goal. But anticipated positive emotions are also a great source of motivation. Therefore, a feeling that we imagine can also repress our weaker self.
Only clearly defined goals can be achieved. The more specifically a plan is defined, the more likely it is to be put into practice. Many studies confirm that specifically formulated, measurable goals are more likely to be tackled and achieved than vague resolutions. A clear formulation such as “I will go jogging for half an hour every Tuesday and Thursday from now on” proves to be much more binding than “I will do more exercise in the new year” – and thus makes any discussion with your weaker self-unnecessary.
Objectives should challenge us, but not overwhelm us. Unrealistic or overly ambitious goals quickly bring out our weaker selves. Especially in the context of sporting goals, it makes sense to think long-term and to be patient with yourself. Beginners should thus not immediately tackle a half-marathon, but instead slowly build up their fitness first. Achieved goals promote motivation, which is the best basis for setting new or higher goals.
Our weaker self loves to put things off and stay on the couch. Defining precise behavioural patterns to achieve the goal can counteract this. The more binding the action plan is, the more likely it is that a fixed routine will be developed. This also includes defining strategies for overcoming obstacles in advance. If jogging is not possible because the weather outside is bad, you can switch to an indoor sport – or you can do your training in the gym instead.
If we have shown staying power over a certain period of time or have reached an intermediate goal, we can reward ourselves for this – for example, with a spa day. The promise of something nice helps to maintain motivation. Fitness trackers can also provide rewards for sporting activities. When success and progress are visible in this way, it is often easier to keep it up.
New behaviour patterns become routine through constant repetition. Researchers at University College London found that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit. Once a routine is established, the voice of the weaker self becomes much quieter. Until then, it is important to take responsibility for keeping things up – until the new behaviour has become second nature.