How to Maintain Willpower over the Holidays

When the holidays hit, they hit hard. They’re like the weekends of the year – Monday through Friday you’re all set with your goals and sleep patterns. Yet once the weekend hits, all bets are off as routines get lost and social temptations beckon.  The holidays are an even greater test of your willpower as stress rises, travel plans are made, and food and booze lurk around every corner. When approaching this holiday season, take these steps to make sure you stick to your guns and come out the other side happy, fulfilled, and satisfied with your decision-making.

Use micro goals

Don’t focus on losing 30 pounds by summer. Focus on losing one pound this week. Breaking things up in to chunks has been proven as a psychological trick for willpower. It’s much easier to conquer a small task in the short-term than a looming and daunting long-term vision. Approach each day with a new goal in mind, whether it’s to just get in the gym and stretch or have the best work out of your life. Setting specific, measurable and achievable micro-goals adds up quickly and keeps you focused.

Find your why behind the why

As people, we’re great at giving broad-stroke reasons for behavior. It’s easy to say “I want to lose weight” or “I want to hit the gym four days a week”, but why? Dig deeper to find the real why behind the why. Maybe your four days a week is because you want your clothes to fit better, and maybe that’s because you want to feel good about yourself in public. But the true, meaningful answer lies beyond those surface-level reasons. Feeling good about yourself in public might help enhance your confidence and help you connect with others. Or getting in better shape and losing weight might allow you to have more energy to spend time with your loved ones. If you find your core why you are more likely to stick to it when times get tough. 

Allow yourself to make mistakes without feeling like a failure

Success is not linear. Everyone has better and worse days. Allow yourself to ride the ups and downs. If your friend got sick and had to cancel plans, would you make them feel like they failed completely? No, because it’s understandable that life happens and some days are better than others. So, take the same level of care with yourself. If you eat too much for dinner or sleep through a workout, that’s fine. Willpower can fatigue if you’re constantly applying it. Let yourself relax a bit and trust that mistakes are okay. Be happy you enjoyed your moment, assess your goals, and set a plan for the future to get back on track.

Don’t lose even one day for without a great reason

“Oh, I’ll get in shape after Christmas” means weeks of wasted time. The month of December is actually a great time to kick off a training program. You’ll typically have more time to sit down and think about your goals, get your social networks involved in fitness, and recover afterward with a good nap. Start by stating your reason why and micro-goals. Try to look at each day as an opportunity to take one step towards your goals, even if it’s just a small one. After a while, sticking to your plan will make fitness a habit. You won’t have to struggle to think about going to the gym today – it will just become second nature. That being said, be sure to plan days off to recover and celebrate life with your loved ones as well. But you want those days off to feel like an oddity rather than a regularity.

Remember, your actions add up over time. What do you want them to add up to?

Get great sleep

Finally, sleep improves focus, health, and willpower! People who are exhausted are much more likely to give in to temptation. Your brain functions like a computer. If you never shut it down, close some windows, and let it recover, it’ll eventually freeze up. You become more impulsive when you’re tired, and it’ll be much easier to get distracted. Then you don’t have a productive day, stay stressed, don’t exercise, and might get another bad night’s rest. The compound effect is real.

Take your sleep and recovery seriously because it sets the tone for the rest of your day. Get 8 hours of uninterrupted, deep sleep by creating a positive sleep environment. Keep the room cool, your bed comfortable, electronics off, and minimize noise. Wake up on the right side of the bed this holiday season, and your willpower will follow into 2019.