An Alternative to Willpower (350 words)

By Alice Boyes, PhD. | Uncategorized

I’m currently doing a personal project of trying 30 new things in 30 days.

The (short) story of how I got started with this project is a great example of why using willpower alone sucks as a self regulation strategy & how to use an alternative strategy.

I had been thinking for AGES that trying some new things would be good for me, especially in terms of eating some different foods. Alas, very little behaviour change occurred.

Since I’ve been in NYC the last couple of months, I’ve been going to a natural food market that bakes vegan cakes & sells a couple of different flavors each day. I don’t eat eggs, so the only time I ever get to eat cake is usually if I make it myself. Getting to buy vegan cakes without having bake them myself has been a great treat, and so I’ve been going there to get some type of goodie almost everyday.

Here’s where the psychological principle comes in…

I don’t know what type of cake they’re going to have available each day, so I can’t do what I’d usually do which is always buy only banana or chocolate cake.

While eating a dessert everyday might not be a great long term plan, arriving at the shop and having no option but to choose a new flavor of cake everyday did 3 things

– it orientated my attention once a day to trying new things rather than thinking about this as a goal only on and off
– it gave me the positive reinforcement that trying new things was fun and exciting
– it gave me the confidence that trying 30 things in 30 days would be achievable, because I was already trying one new thing a day.

Take Home Message

Instead of using willpower alone as a self regulation strategy, try to see if there is an “environment hack” like the vegan cake shop that will set you up, so that you don’t need to use willpower. If you want to read my Daily Status Updates about my 30-Day Projects, you can Preview them here. And get them by email here Get my 30-Day Project Status Updates by email.

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