Maybe the most important thing you’ll learn in the book is this: Don’t try to make important decisions when you’re tired, hungry or feel overextended.
The authors, Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, claim that we spend about a quarter of our waking hours resisting impulses of some kind. Willpower, if it exists, is consumed by all the decisions you have to make, which leaves you with less self-control as the day goes by. Here are some of their suggestions:
- Increase your willpower by developing habits so you don’t have to rely solely on your resolve.
- Plan in advance how you’ll handle specific situations and you won’t have to consider all the possibilities, leaving you with more energy to resist cravings.
- Work on one behavior change at a time so you aren’t overwhelmed by trying to make multiple changes.
- Take care of basic needs like sleep, exercise and healthy food. “Powering through” when your energy is low causes you to make serious errors.
Finally, they state that giving in to temptation doesn’t replenish willpower you’ve already used. Instead, forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do will leave you with less willpower. You can tell that your willpower is spent when things that seem as though they should be easy are taking a lot of your energy to accomplish.
What do you when you’ve exhausted your mental reserves? Do you plan for how you’ll handle situations when you know you’ll be tempted to behave in a way you’d rather not?