How to build willpower for the weak

In my experience, anything that requires a lot of willpower isn’t sustainable. That’s why I use a number of tricks to avoid situations that pit pleasure against deprivation. The cucumber trick is just one of them.

I also like to train myself away from using willpower the way Pavlov trained his pooches. After a workout at the gym, I always treat myself to a delicious protein shake and 20 minutes of unstructured chilling out in the snack bar while reading interesting tidbits on my smartphone. The combination of the cool-down, the delicious shake and the free time with my thoughts and the Internet is deliriously pleasurable. Now when I think about going to the gym, I don’t imagine the boringness of the exercise in isolation. I think of it as a package deal that includes the wonderful 20 minutes that follow.

I also give myself permission to work out as little as I want on any given day and to call that a success. I used to have a target of exercising three to four days per week. On workout days I would push myself to the point where I knew I would be sore for the next day or two. No pain, no gain! The problem was that when I thought about exercise, I imagined the pain and discomfort. It took a lot of willpower to exercise three to four times per week while knowing it would hurt while it happened, and hurt the next day too.