The REAL reason you can't stick to your goals.
When it comes to sticking to a diet, workout plan, consistent study habits, or any type of physical or mental change, the ultimate factor comes down to an individual's ability to self-regulate and handle daily decision making. The ability to make decisions to delay gratification in sacrifice to long term goals is most commonly referred to as self-control.
Self-control is a finite resource. According to the "Strength Model" proposed by Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist, the ability to resist temptations, control emotions, and other discipline related decisions depletes in a similar way that a muscle weakens as more and more reps of an exercise is performed. This exhaustion of resources, known as ego-depletion (referring to Sigmund Freud's theory of the self in terms of energy) leads to a lack of desire to be disciplined.
The good news though, is that the Strength Model also shows that, as with muscles, self control can be strengthened. And the best way to strengthen your willpower is to set modest, achievable goals. Setting huge goals is a fantastic notion, but you may not be strong enough in your self discipline to achieve that goal and the failure to achieve will only hurt your pride and leave you with self doubt. Now, that said, you may not have the will power in this moment, but you can strengthen your resolve and be ready to achieve the discipline necessary to achieve your goal 6 months from now.
The most important thing to realize is that trainers create progressions for a reason. You may not have the ability to stick to a strict regimen, 6 days of cardio and 6 days of lifting, drink a gallon of water and abstain from alcohol. But you may be able to start with 4 days in the gym and cut out sugar. Once you master that, add a water increase and focus on your diet. Over time, adding in disciplines will serve you much better than diving in head first.
Progressively strengthening your mental fortitude can also be affected physiologically as well. Interestingly, will-power is heavily effected by properly regulated blood glucose levels. Disproportionately high or low levels will actually make an individual more impulsive and make long term goals fade from focus. What can we do about that?
Turns out that although supplementing with glucose can have a modest impact on impulsivity, the best way to regulate blood glucose levels is to get adequate SWS (slow wave sleep). Different from REM sleep that sorts our memories from short term to long term memory, SWS is the physical recovery side of our sleep and a lack of it can lead to obesity, increased stress, a myriad of diseases, and increased impulsivity. SWS can help with physical goals as well, but that is a completely different article.
Adequate SWS is the best and most effective way (in healthy individuals) to regulate blood glucose and blood glucose levels have a significant impact on impulsivity (much more so than external motivation from friends, coaches, motivational speakers, etc). So if you find yourself not able to stick to your long term goals, you may be missing out on sleep.
Sleep and a proper progression to your long term goals can help create a lifestyle you are aiming for without exhausting and burning you out.
If you have any questions about how to work on your sleep habits or how to set up a proper progression of discipline, talk to us or stay tuned for future posts! Thanks!
Van Deusen, Mark. "Deep Sleep: What it is, Benefits of it, How Much Do You Need & How To Increase It". Whoop Website. Nov. 30, 2019 Click here to read.
Pilcher, June J. "Interactions between sleep habits and self-control" National Center for Biotechnological Information. May 11, 2015 Click here to read.
Hagger, Martin S. "Ego depletion and the strength model of self-control: a meta-analysis" Pubmed. July, 2010. Click here to read.
Morselli, Lisa. "Role of sleep duration in the regulation of glucose metabolism and appetite". Pubmed. June, 2010. Click here to read.