When I was trying to get healthier physically, I was always reminded that habits have the advantage over willpower. I always disliked this idea because it seemed to be that the two forces go hand in hand. To develop healthy habits, it took a lot of willpower to start eating better, exercising, and taking care of myself mentally. It was a lot of work for it to become routine, but once it did, it was hard to shake.
A friend of mine told me recently that she scheduled all of her classes in the morning because she wanted to get her day started early and if she had all afternoon classes she would just sleep in. Although I understood what she meant, I wanted to tell her that it was totally possible, and probably more sustainable in the long run, if she just exercised some willpower for a few weeks until waking up earlier became a habit.
I’ve always been a night owl and an early bird, so it’s important to me that I find a way to get 8 hours of sleep while still being able to stay up later but wake up before noon. When I was in high school, I had the worst trouble getting up the morning. Part of that struggle definitely came from the fact that I wasn’t motivated to get to school because I didn’t enjoy my experience there, but most of the problem was exhaustion.
Despite understanding the science of why teenagers need a lot of sleep, I still had to find a way to get up earlier and have more energy. My exhausted state was no longer becoming sustainable and I knew it was important for me to focus on schoolwork at the time I was dealing with this. So, I took advantage of my willpower. I forced myself to make certain habits for two to four weeks. If they hadn’t stuck or, at the very least, weren’t easier by that time, I could drop them. Most of the habits not only stuck, but I found myself looking forward to acting on them.
Willpower, in my opinion, is underutilized and underappreciated. There is so much power in being so motivated and excited about the possibility of the future that you can force yourself through the difficult times. If they continue to be difficult for too long, then you’ll know that those habits were not for you. While habits may be more sustainable in the long term, willpower is an excellent way to take advantage of the initial motivation and excitement that comes with starting a new phase in life.