Never enough willpower! part 1

Posted by Pat on June 2, 2013 in Uncategorized |


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Don’t you just hate it when your willpower falters and fails and you hit the snooze button, roll over and skip your early morning exercise, again?

We’ve read that willpower is a “finite” resource-easy to use up, often long before we’ve got that new habit established.

So, what’s a gal like me to do with my good intentions? Fortunately, there’s a solution that comes from something called “Interactive Designs.”

Here’s an interesting example that I came across. (And it really does apply!)

If you’ve ever gone to get money from an ATM you’ll probably have had the experience of sticking in your card, entering all the details, reaching for the money…and then realizing the money wasn’t going to come until you had first taken out your card.

When ATMs first became popular, one of the biggest frustrations for users was accidentally leaving their card in the machine.ATM use

The banks didn’t like it either. Each morning their staff were handling these upset customers who had “been in a hurry and stupidly forgotten to take my card out.”

Banks tried putting bigger signs on their ATMs, with arrows pointing at the place you were meant to pick up your card. They installed beeping reminders into the machines. They changed the display message to tell people to take their card. They still had problems.

In the end they solved it with what is called a “Forcing Function.”
They changed the sequence so that you don’t get what you came for (i.e. the money) until you have done all the incidental bits, including taking your card.

People wanted their card. They just needed to be reminded about it. They didn’t need to have more will power, or spend more time beating up on themselves for being stupid or lazy or worse.

The system can just be changed, so human beings can stay the same.
This is good!

So what does this mean to us?

Self-help can be also be about changing the world around you, not just changing yourself. You can do it to yourself and probably already have.

If you had a problem getting up in the morning, rather than trust yourself to get up when the alarm goes off, did you move the alarm across the room so you’d be “forced” to get up to turn it off? And did you have your exercise clothes all laid out?

See, if you set it up so that “the money won’t come out until you take the card,” you won’t have to worry about your willpower.

It’s a disciplined use of force, the way a mother would give her child what they need, not what they want; the way we can “trick” ourselves to not procrastinate on something we really do want to do.

willpowerIt’s removing the tempting treats from the pantry and refrigerator and putting in the healthy, already prepared snacks that you want to train yourself to eat instead.

It’s putting your new blog address on your 4th of July party invitations so that you’ll be forced to post that blog before your friends and family receive their invites.

Now I understand why “Forcing Function” is forced. And it’s great to know that I can do it to myself and to my circumstances!

(Check in next week for Part 2-more about willpower and habits!)


‘”Forcing Function”
Strange name. Vital self-help skill.

Where have you used it in your life?
Where can you use it now that you know about it?

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  • Earl Blackaby says:

    Sometimes we get into a boring routine in our lives. Look around and find a way or two to try to change things up a bit. Such as: going to church twice a week to feed the hungry. Try it – find out there are many hungry folks you didn’t know about who say an heartfelt “thank you “. Now there is a routine change that feels special and you change the routine to add special times. The will power to get up in the morning comes much easier when you find useful things to do with your time. Find ways to give more meaning to getting up in the morning, then won’t have lazy starts to your days. ( Sometimes when you work yourself to death, then get the
    will power to stay in bed a bit longer ).

  • Sandy Smith says:

    Great thoughts. Help yourself to do what it is you want to do. Keep those blogs a-coming!

    • Pat says:

      Sandy, it amazes me how difficult it often is to actually do what it is that we really do want to do! Inertia? The ad “A body in motion tends to stay in motion?” Ah well, we keep learning new ways to get ourselves to do stuff!

  • Fay says:

    OK, Pat. I tried your plan this morning. It worked. Interesting. Saying I want to play the harp, but doing everything else first, then running out of time has been my MO of late. Today, per our conversation about your blog, I stayed in my jammies, played the harp (and had coffee) while breakfast was in the oven. Lovely. What’s even more interesting to me is that then I just kept moving rather than sitting at the computer goofing off. Result? More satisfaction and definitely pleased with myself. Now to continue the roll……

    Thanks! You always have a different perspective on things. I like that!

    • Donna Ledford says:

      You are absolutely correct Fay, your sis usually as a different perspective on things. One that generally is helpful and often eye opening. Thanks Pat. Now, to put your method in motion.

  • Tish says:

    Great blog! And Donna you are so right when you say Pat has a different perpective on things! I often go to her when I am stuck and always appreciate her help and also always wonder “why didn’t I see that!!” When we worked as business partners in real estate I learned a ton from seeing it from a different perspective! I happen to be a person with a lot of willpower, but it never hurts to work on it!

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