Your perception of motivation / willpower could be your shortfall!

Whichever way you want to look at it...lack of motivation, depleted willpower, loss of drive or lack of self discipline, this is the one thing that stops us in our tracks. 


Personally I don’t think you need the magical power of motivation to achieve your fitness goals, you don’t need to start you day like something off a Rocky montage…..although if your can train like that each day, then all power to you! Personally, I believe that if you just stick to some basic habits day to day you’ll get results and the momentum from those successful days will drive motivation and things will naturally get better and better. Kind of like a snowball rolling down a hill that just gets faster and faster and more of a force to be reckoned with!

However, I’m going to talk about habits, I’m going to talk about peoples perception of motivation / willpower. You see, there are two main ways to think about willpower:

  1. It's a limited resource that can be depleted in time

  2. It's like a muscle that can be developed

Both of these have merit when we look at the scientific literature; the former is demotivating and the latter can open up some incredibly inspiring doors and can motivate you in itself.

If you think of willpower as being a limited resource, then after one to two months of eating “clean” and training hard you will have used up your recourse and that’s when shit starts going wrong. Instead, at this point you should be an absolute Jedi at practising the art of self discipline!

One study done by Mark Muraven and his colleagues at the Department of Psychology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, USA asked volunteers to follow a two-week regime to track their food intake, improve their moods or improve their posture. Compared to a control group, the participants who had exerted self-control by performing the assigned exercises were less vulnerable to willpower depletion in follow-up lab tests. In another study, he found that smokers who practiced self-control for two weeks by avoiding sweets or regularly squeezing a handgrip were more successful at quitting smoking than control subjects who performed two weeks of regular tasks that required no self-control, such as writing in a diary.

Interesting shit yeah!?

Now, let’s change our perception, let’s NOT think of motivation / willpower as us going for one big long run where we’re just getting more and more exhausted to the point where we need to stop. Instead, let’s think of it as a muscle, each time we go for a run our muscles develop and our cardiovascular systems improves, we get better and better. Essentially, each act of self discipline will develop us as human and exercise our ability to have self control! Have you ever thought that you’re an “all or nothing” type person, where you only eat healthy when exercising and only exercise when eating healthily, this is because you’re actively practicing the art of self discipline, therefore developing your willpower, this can positively spread in all areas of your life! 

Personally, I’ve not always had a great deal of self control, I have the Army to thank for that, anyone who’s had to stand still for 2 hours on a drill square….. and I mean not moving at all, knows a little bit about discipline. 

So, anytime you take the “healthy choice” at a restaurant, eat the lower calorie treat, say no to that 5th Jägerbomb, get your ass to the gym, do that final rep that makes all the difference or get up one hour earlier, just think of it as “developing your willpower muscle” and NOT “depleting it your willpower”


Muraven, M. et al. (1999). Longitudinal improvement of self-regulation through practice: building self-control strength through repeated exercise. Journal of Social Psychology, 139, 446-457.

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