Willpower Boot Camp Day 2: Volatility of Emotions
I have a tendency to overestimate my abilities. I would imagine most of us do. People think tasks are going to take less time than they do, things are going to require less energy, and here’s the kicker: less willpower than they end up actually taking. A good way to organize your day and eliminate potential for wasted time and lost opportunities is to make a list. A daily plan with goals you would like to achieve and habits you would like to cultivate.
The problem here is that in planning your daily activities you may overlook things that require additional willpower because you may build your list with a calm and collected emotional state of mind, but it rarely stays that way throughout the day. When I wrote my list of intentions for a Tuesday, I threw in “Go Grocery Shopping” after I was supposed to be out of work for the day, quite nonchalant and without much forethought. Turns out that the day was quite long and though not particularly difficult, it was draining and I didn’t get enough to eat for lunch (bear lunch - sweet potatoes and canned tuna). I was starving when I got out of work and all I could think about was dinner and food. As we all know, it is a slipperly slope to go grocery shopping when you are hungry. It causes us to spend unnecessary amounts of money on food we don’t need, and in quantities we cannot hardly consume. So in this case my list failed me because it was not comprehensive enough, and I did not account on my negative emotional state when it came time to actually going shopping. Hunger does also not make for a clear state of mind, and I was struggling to remember what I was even supposed to buy while I was at the store.
What this boiled down to was that I needed to be extra vigilant about keeping my cravings in check as I wandered the aisles and only obtained the bare minimum necessary for the next couple days of sustenance. There is that shadow constantly following me as I peruse the aisles that wants me to buy food for the whole week, but I can rationalize that if I really need something, I can come back to the store. It isn’t that far away, after all.
I recognized my own weakness here and had to act on the spot in order to prevent it from taking advantage of me – something that required willpower. But what if I didn’t have any left in the tank? What you can do instead is to plan on your weakness in advance. We are only human, after all. When I created my plan for the day I didn’t consider that I might be shopping hungry, so I left a grocery list in my head instead of written down. This can lead to aforementioned over-spending and over-consumption without necessity, which chews away at excess cash, and probably doesn’t do your health any favors either. Writing down your grocery list and sticking to it while shopping is a life lesson that should not be underestimated – you never know when your willpower will be depleted beyond the ability to regulate the situation without a little help from your past. Suppose you received some terrible news, or skipped lunch completely. Suppose the day was particularly stressful. All of these things can add up to it being extremely difficult to say no to impulses.
In more contexts than just grocery shopping this can apply. There might be some more serious or plans in your day or week that require you to be on your A game. You want to consider what your emotional state might be during critical points of your day and make plans to mitigate problems before they arise. Preparation is key here, and it is ultimately driven by your original plan. In creating and writing that daily plan, take a few extra minutes and take action to reduce the risk of a volatile emotion causing you to waste time, money, and effort. Future you will thank me.
No one ever plans on failure – but always consider your potential emotional state when making plans and executing them. Reaching for the sky and achieving all of your goals every day can be an extremely daunting task, but sometimes the difference between success and failure is a plan and nothing more. This article, for example, was on my list of things to do and I almost skipped it for the day, because I was tired and had already done so much. But since it was the last thing on the list I had made the day before that was left undone, I decided to buckle down and get 100% instead of a 95%.