The Trouble with Willpower


Willpower lives in the conscious part of the mind. Which is why it also dies in the conscious part of the mind. Sound contradictory? No, not really. Here’s why.

You see the conscious, rational part of our mind is extremely limited. It only holds about seven to nine pieces of information at any time. So for something else to come in, something has to be put aside.

Take smoking for example. The person who smokes when they’re feeling stressed may make the decision to quit smoking. Then stress occurs and that decision may be pushed out by the unconscious decision to have a cigarette to deal with that stress.

But that’s not the reason for this post. Sometimes people who use willpower to stop an unwanted behaviour may substitute something else for that behaviour that may not be as damaging as the unwanted behaviour but may still be a “too much” habit.

Trading Peanuts for Tobacco – willpower gone wild

While there are many healthy habits that people can adopt when they quit smoking, many people head straight for snack food.

An example is my father. When I was around nine or ten, he was watching a television program about smoking and what it does to your body. He saw images of what lungs look like after smoking and it scared him. He put the cigarette he was smoking down and never picked up the habit again.

Yes, there may have been occasions in later years while when drinking with his friends he may have had a puff or two, but given that he hardly ever drank, he did remain a non-smoker up until he died.

So, while willpower helped him stay smoke-free, it didn’t do anything for the peanut habit he picked up afterwards.

He would watch television with a dish of peanuts beside him.

On Halloween when we finished trick or treating, he was raiding the treat bags for the peanuts.

Swapping alcohol and drugs for exercise

I knew another guy who had a severe drinking and drug problem. Alcoholics Anonymous helped him beat the drinking.

After he stopped drinking, he looked amazing. He got into really good shape. I saw him frequently and commented on how great he was looking.

He told me he had had a problem with drinking and had gone to AA. And he also started hitting the gym.

He would show me on his phone his workout routine and it was wild. It seemed that he channelled all of the energy and focus he put on the bottle into his workout routine.

He was also using diet products like nutritional shakes and not eating a lot of food.

I haven’t seen him for a couple of years now. The closure of gyms during Covid must have been a challenge for him.

Less alcohol, more caffeine and tobacco

Go to any AA meeting and you’ll see that there is a lot of coffee being consumed inside the meeting. Go outside and you’ll see members milling around with cigarettes in their hands.

I had coffee with someone who was a recovering alcoholic. During our one hour meeting, he must have had at least three cups of coffee – and that was in the middle of the morning. I have no idea how much he had before we met.

He freely admitted to me that coffee was his substitute drink of choice after beating the bottle. Coffee in moderation isn’t bad for you, but too much can cause problems.

If you have the will, hypnosis can give you the power

It seemed like willpower was kind of a fickle friend. In quitting these too much behaviours, they simply adopted other too much behaviours and didn’t address the reasons why they had those behaviours in the first place.

And this is where hypnosis comes in.

Hypnosis can help you deal with the reasons why you have these behaviours and help you overcome them without having to switch one too much behaviour for another.

If you would like to remove a habit without substituting another one, I invite you to book a free strategy call and we can chat about your habit, how it is affecting your life and if hypnosis is right for you.

It could be the 45 minutes that changes your life.

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