Willpower and I Aren't Pals

Willpower. It’s a word we've all heard or used ourselves, more often than not in the spirit of defeat or exasperation. How many times have you thought to yourself “I wish I had the willpower to…” or heard someone pass judgement by dropping something like “If she just had some willpower, she’d…”? I hear it all the time, and sometimes I can't help but wonder if there is anything quite so full of shit as the concept of "willpower". 

There is a certain appeal to the idea of possessing enough mental strength to achieve a goal by simply willing ourselves to do so, but doesn't relying on willpower or motivation alone to get you to the finish line just make a task that much more difficult in the long run? Why not actually create a plan and set yourself up for success? "Work smarter, not harder" and all of that good stuff?

For obvious reasons, every single attempt I made to quit drinking before I left the liquor industry was futile. I would tell myself that I was through, that somehow I would just stop. I had no plan, and no strategy for dealing with triggers or social pressure; I was simply going to not drink anymore. I was motivated in the moment, and foolishly willed myself into believing that I would strong-arm my way through any future difficulties without issue.

Of course, next thing I knew there would be another event to attend or special brew to try, and I would be back off the wagon. Willpower failed me at each and every turn because I wasn't setting myself up for success at all.

So I quit my job. Yes, I know that’s extreme, and no, I wouldn't recommend just up and leaving your career like I did. That said, if I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing. Coming to terms with the way alcohol was pervading my life and walking away from the industry was the single most difficult, frightening, and intelligent thing I have ever done.

It took about a month of false starts after leaving the before I got this whole quitting thing to stick. Everything came together when I began to cultivate a plan and put myself in a position to succeed. I sought out information, reading everything about giving up alcohol I could get my eyes on, and scoured the internet for young people like me who were living without. I distracted myself with Netflix, a new book each day, nail polish, obsessively cleaning my apartment...whatever. I slept a lot. I avoided social situations involving large quantities of liquor until I knew I could trust myself around it. I waited, and I was patient. I inched my way through each minute of every day as though I had taken scissors to some invisible line within my life and any stray cut could be fatal.

It wasn't willpower that kept me from picking up “just one more” drink or cigarette, it was having a plan in place to distract myself when those thoughts crept up. I am not possessed of some sort of superior mental fortitude that has allowed me to succeed. I’m just a normal girl who learned how to position myself in a way that created the shortest distance between myself and my goal.

Now I just need to puzzle out how I’m going to apply all of this planning for success stuff to learning to lift heavy shit (and otherwise getting my fitness game on lock). The fun continues.