Willpower and making the most of mornings

By January 29, 2014Personal health

I was reading this morning ab0ut what the most successful people do before breakfast (a post largely based on a book by Laura Vanderkam), and there are two big takeaways:

  • Firstly willpower is a muscle. It becomes fatigued from over-use, but when you exercise it regularly your willpower gets stronger. Better still, if you exercise it regularly enough tasks that used to require a lot of willpower become easier, even habits (this is why behaviour change coaches put so much stress on committing to do something regularly for a short period of time). You can make an analogy with bodybuilders – it takes a big effort to build up muscle mass but then less effort to maintain it.
  • Secondly in the mornings your reserves of willpower are stronger, making before breakfast a great time to do things that are important but not urgent. These things require will power because there’s less immediate payback, and they are often investments in the future. Vanderkam writes that successful people use their mornings to nurture their careers, nurturing relationships with friends and family, and nurturing themselves through exercise and creative/spiritual practices.

Reading that I feel pretty good about my morning routine. I wake up before everyone else in the house to nurture my career by reading the news and nurture my body by exercising for half an hour, and then we all sit down for a family breakfast. If I wake up a little early I throw in fifteen minutes of meditation. Interestingly, I’m not really a morning person and when I began exercising first thing I found it very hard. Now I step out of bed and into my running gear without thinking twice.

  • Gus Ferguson

    I couldn’t agree more with this. I used to regard the thought of getting up early in the morning to exercise an impossibility, but after a couple of months of dragging myself out of bed, I’m now at the point where far from finding it difficult, I now enjoy it hugely! Also gives me the feeling of much more time in the day… my favourite thing’s been getting a blender and making raw oat + banana + cinnamon + honey smoothies. Great way to start the day!

  • Love it! Thanks Gus.

  • Rait Ojasaar

    These are excellent points! If you want to learn more about the history and the latest scientific studies on willpower, then I suggest to pick up Roy F. Baumeister’s book “Willpower”. I found it well balanced, covering claims of willpower naysayers as well as its proponents. This book put a lot of my past experiences into a new perspective and it also helped me to avoid some obvious pitfalls related to willpower or the lack of it… Definitely worth a read. http://www.amazon.com/Willpower-Rediscovering-Greatest-Human-Strength/dp/0143122231/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391105483&sr=8-1&keywords=willpower