Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Balance365 Life Radio

May 22, 2019

Do you ever feel like you would be more successful in your journey to better health if you had more willpower and motivation? Does it feel like everyone else has more willpower and motivation than you? Does it seem like all these changes are more difficult for you than other people? You’re going to want to tune in for this conversation with Annie and Jen for the truth about willpower, motivation and what action you can take to feel more successful.


What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • The definition of willpower
  • How decision fatigue impacts the quality of choices we make
  • What’s the difference between motivation and willpower?
  • How preparation sets you up for success
  • Meal planning - why it can be helpful
  • What to do when you can’t rely on motivation and willpower
  • How waiting for motivation gets in the way of change that matters to us
  • The magic in boredom
  • The Habit Hangover - what is it?
  • What keeps successful people going
  • What a study of soda and water in a hospital teaches us about habits
  • How to curate your environment for success



Atomic Habits by James Clear

53: Secrets From The Eating Lab: Dr. Traci Mann

Secrets From The Eating Lab

Arms Like Annie

Learn more about Balance365 Life here

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or Android so you never miss a new episode!

Visit us on Facebook| Follow us on Instagram| Check us out on Pinterest

Join our free Facebook group with over 40k women just like you!

Did you enjoy the podcast? Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or Google Play! It helps us get in front of new listeners so we can keep making great content.


Annie: Welcome to Balance365 Life Radio, a podcast that delivers honest conversations about food, fitness, weight and wellness. I'm your host Annie Brees along with Jennifer Campbell and Lauren Koski. We are personal trainers, nutritionists and founders of Balance365. Together we coached thousands of women each day and are on a mission to help them feel healthy, happy and confident in their bodies, on their own terms. Join us here every week as we discuss hot topics pertaining to our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing with amazing guests. Enjoy.

Welcome to Balance365 Life radio. Have you ever felt like if you just had more willpower, self control or motivation, you would finally be able to reach your goals? We get it. We hear this a lot and it's no wonder. The diet and fitness industry have led us to believe that willpower and control are characteristics of driven, successful, healthy individuals. And if we just had more, we wouldn't struggle. But is that all we need? Do we really just need more self control? And if so, how do I get it? Cause sign me up!

On today's episode, Jen and I dive into the theories and the truth behind willpower, motivation and self control and offer tried and true practical strategies to help you stay on track with your goals even when you're just not feeling up to it. And by the way, if you want to continue this discussion on willpower, motivation, and self control, we invite you to join our free private Facebook group. Healthy Habits, Happy Moms. See you on the inside. Jen, how are you?

Jen: Good, how are you?

Annie: I'm great. We are talking about willpower and motivation today, which is something that comes up so frequently in our community. Like how do I get more motivation? How do I get more willpower? Right? We hear this a lot.

Jen: Yeah and everywhere, right? Even the messages we get out of the fitness industry talks about getting motivated and having more willpower. And sometimes those phrases are used in a way that can feel really hurtful, right? Like you're doing something wrong and everybody else, everybody else around you seems to be very motivated and have a lot of willpower and you feel like it's something you lack.

Annie: Right? And if you just had that, if you had willpower and determination and motivation and self discipline, then you could achieve anything.

Jen: Right? And how many times have we heard, "I just have no willpower and that's my downfall. No willpower."

Annie: Right? Yeah. And so we've done a fair amount of investigation into what really is behind willpower, what's behind motivation, what's behind self discipline? Do you really just need more of it? Because that is the message. Like you said, that we've been sold by the fitness industry that like, "Hey, if you just stick to this thing, if you can just have enough self discipline and motivation to stick to this plan, then you'll achieve your goals." And so then that becomes a way in which people feel like they're feeling like, "Oh, I did this." Like you said, "I'm wrong. I'm a failure. I'm lacking in this element of my life and everyone else is doing it. And I'm not." And is there any truth behind that? And I think what we're going to share today might surprise some people.

Jen: Yes.

Annie: Foreshadowing.

Jen: Yes.

Annie: And I want to say, like, you've done a lot of writing on this too because a lot of this is in the first phase of our Balance365 programming called Diet Deprogramming.

Jen: Yes. Yeah.

Annie: And that's the phase in which we kind of challenge, not kind of, we challenge some of the beliefs that you might hold sold to you by the diet and fitness industry, right?

Jen: Yes. And the science around willpower and motivation is very heavy. And so I think today we're going to try talk about it in less scientific but more practical terms.

Annie: Yeah.

Jen: That make sense to everyone. And they can implement in their lives immediately.

Annie: Well, yeah, I mean, we're not researchers!

Jen: That's the goal!

Annie: I mean, I like to think that I'm pretty smart, but definitely not researcher level. Okay. So let's start with the definition of willpower. Let's just get really clear on that. And the definition of willpower is the ability to exert control and resist impulses. And the truth is that we all have varying degrees of willpower. And on one end of the spectrum you'll have people with almost perfect willpower. And on the other end of the spectrum, you'll have people with almost no willpower. And the vast majority of us are-

Jen: Somewhere in the middle.

Annie: And like Jen said, there have been a lot of studies done on willpower and a lot of theories and it's kind of an ongoing process and you might find some that kind of disagree with each other. So like Jen said, we're just trying to give you more practical advice on how you can reach your goals without maybe relying on willpower and what is clear is that one of our mentors, Steven Michael Ledbetter, he is an expert in the science of human behavior. It's said that people reporting high levels of fatigue are the ones whose lives require high levels of mental energy expenditure. And do you want to give us that marriage example that you share in Diet deprogramming? Can you walk us through that and so we can see what Steven Michael Ledbetter says applies to real life.

Jen: Okay. So yes. So, you had just talked about how people who have high levels of fatigue are the ones whose lives require high levels of mental energy expenditure. So this might include having to make many small decisions or choose between similar options all day long, and so what this, what we talk about in diet deprogramming as we compare two people.

We've got a stay at home dad and a working mom and I put out this situation where a working mom, she gets up early kind of before anyone else is awake and she has some quiet time, has her breakfast and then she dashes out the door and on her way out she grabs her gym bag, which is packed and ready to go right by the door and she heads up the door for work. Her day is, you know, maybe not a super high stress job. She has some responsibility, but it's not super high stress. Her lunch breaks are always scheduled. She goes to the gym on her lunch breaks. It's a automatic habit and then she returned home around 5:30, six o'clock.

Meanwhile, stay at home dad. This is my dream life. That's why I use this as an example. He wakes up tired because he's been up with maybe a toddler a couple of times in the night. He wakes up to lots of noise too, maybe a baby and a toddler crying "Breakfast!" And immediately he's going, "What am I going to feed these kids for breakfast?" And gulping back coffee and then trying to get those kids dressed because they have an appointment at 10 o'clock and then trying to get himself dressed. And it's just the crazy, right? I think we've all been there.

Annie: That sounds familiar.

Jen: Yes. And then just getting those kids out the door getting, and then one of them saying they got to poop. So then coming back in to change a diaper, like just like madness constantly. Right. And despite his best intentions to do a workout during nap time that afternoon, he is just so mentally fatigued from everything that happened between 8:00 AM and 1:00 PM that by the time the afternoon hits scrolling Facebook and the couch have won him over. And then of course the afternoon to get up from their naps. Similar stuff, making dinner, just that whole crazy and working wife gets home at 5:30 and dinner is almost ready and they sit down for a nice family dinner. They get the kids to bed that night. They go to unwind on the couch.

They might share a bag of chips and working Susie goes to bed at a reasonable hour. But stay at home husband is just mentally fatigued, is so sick of being around kids. This is the only time he has in a day to not be with kids and he ends up staying up til midnight like he does every single night. Just hoarding those hours for himself and that might lead to more chips, maybe a beer, watching TV. Then he goes to bed around midnight and it starts again the next day. And so this example I think is typical of what might be happening in a lot of people's households is, you, I don't want to say typical. I'll say it was typical for me for a long time.

I don't know if it was typical for you, Annie, but and I would say that even though my partner had taken on the responsibility of earning and that was an enormous responsibility, I felt like my life was chaos, very hard to find a routine when my kids were all little, little. I had three kids under four and it was just that I felt like my mental energy was just, just chipped away at all day long. Just all those little decisions you have to make dealing with unreasonable little kids all day. And it was very hard for me to get the physical or mental energy together. And then it's a downward cycle, right? Like then you have staying up late then broken sleep, can't get up in the morning, can't get going. And you know, we know that spiral, right? Making not so great food choices.

Annie: Yeah. it's hard to make great choices when you're exhausted, when you're mentally and maybe even physically fatigued, you're kind of not in a prime position to make a good choice. And the mental fatigue that comes with a long day of decision making, whether it be you, Jen, when you were staying at home or the husband that we described in the last situation, the long day of decision making chips away at your energy and your willpower. So you have the contrast of the working mom who didn't have to make a lot of choices or maybe she made those choices ahead of time. So when she was fatigued-

Jen: Right? So she packed her lunch, you know, she packs her lunch the night before, packs her gym bag. Doesn't have to think about those things. And maybe, you know, I think about my husband when he would go to work, there were lots of decisions that needed to be made and he did work in a high pressure environment, but he had assistants, receptionists, you know, like there was a lot of people pushing the ball forward with him, and yeah, so, and I don't want to like create this comparison game. I just might help with conversations between partners or just reflection, right? And so yeah, like, “Wow, how can I reduce the amount of decisions I have to make in a day?” Because what we know is all those decisions is actually contributing big time to your mental fatigue.

Annie: Right? And so that's why we talk a lot about things like habits. So when you walk to the fridge, you have your, maybe your lunch for the week, you know, you've got all your power bowls. That's why our power bowl challenge was so successful and we loved it so much is because you don't have to then think at 12 o'clock when you're already starving and like, "Oh gosh, what am I gonna eat for lunch now? And do I want to cook something? Do I want to go grab something?" Because convenience wins.

We know that over and over and over again, that whatever is most readily available will likely win out, which we'll talk about how your environment impacts your habits in just a little bit. But essentially what this boils down to in real life that this means, although it may appear that some people have higher levels of willpower than you do, it's probably they've just have just less mental energy expended during the day on large or small decisions.

Jen: Right. So that may mean they have less decisions to make, or it may mean that they have habits in place so that they are not making those decisions, right? So you know, if you've listened to our podcast for a long time, you'll know exactly what that means. But if you're new to our podcast, it's sort of how when I open up my phone each time, I don't have to think about what my passcode is to get in, right?

But when you go to change your password, you put in your old code, you're like, and then you have put it in again, and then you put it in again. And then all of a sudden you're like, "Oh yeah, I changed my passcode." So that's just an example of where energy is expended in one little way, right? Until that new habit is formed and then it takes no energy for you to do that.

Or I was on another podcast, a couple months ago and a farm podcast actually. And, I said to the host, I was trying to explain habits and I said, "What happens when somebody moves the silverware drawer?" And the host, the a male host, Rob, his name was, he goes, "10 years later, you're still reaching to get it out of the old drawer." And that's the thing, right? So habits, having habits set up, like packing your gym bag before bed, if that becomes a part of your night routine and then you don't have to think about it in the morning, "Oh, where's my pants? Where's my shoes? Where's?" Do you know what I mean? And so it's looking at it, you know, case by case. You think, well, these aren't big decisions. Like who cares? But it's actually adding up all those things through the course of a day where you're just like, "Ugh, brain done."

Annie: Yeah. Like, you know, the term that comes to mind is just this like exasperated. Like "I can't, I just can't. I can't, I can't." I think I've said that to my husband before like, "I can't make a choice right now. I just need you to do this for me. Like I don't even care." And then he picked somewhere to eat and I'm like "But not that place."

Self control is similar. In that when scientists analyze people who appear to have great self control, similarly, it's largely because they're better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self control. And in short, they spend time, less time in tempting situations. And that was pulled from also one of our mentors, James Clear, his new book, Atomic Habits, which if you haven't checked out that book or his blog posts they're great. He's hopefully similar to us really applies information to your lives really easily.

Jen: Yeah. But ps, he may not know he's a mentor of ours. We may just be like silent mentees

Annie: It's not like we're buddies.

Jen: Annie, you took his course a couple of years ago.

Annie: Yeah, I did.

Jen: Yeah. Anyways-

Annie: Maybe admirers.

Jen: Admirers of his work. Stalkers?

Annie: Creepers.

Jen: We're not quite at that level. But and we also talked about this in our podcast with doctor Tracey Mann. She's actually done a lot of research on willpower and she talked about it in that podcast and what she had said is nobody has good willpower. You think, you know, nobody does, in different survey she's done when she asks people to rate their own willpower. Everybody scores themselves low on willpower. So nobody thinks they have good willpower. And this is just an excerpt from her book Secrets From The Eating Lab, which is another book we recommend all the time. "Humans were simply not meant to willfully resist food. We evolved through famines, hunting and gathering, eating whatever we could get when we could get it. We evolve to keep fat on our bones by eating food we see, not by resisting it? So is that a good segway into-

Annie: Well, I think the takeaway is there, like you can take some of the pressure off yourself for not having like iron man or whatever, like discipline and willpower like, the truth is no one is like that. That's what we're trying to say is that people that you think have really good willpower have most likely, again, created their lives, created routine, created habits that make other options less tempting. They've made the choices that they want to make the most readily available, the easiest to choose, and the most obvious choice in their lives.

Jen: Right? So instead of putting all this energy into kind of shaming yourself and getting down on yourself for not having perfect willpower and motivation, put your energy into what we know matters, which is curating your environment and setting yourself up for success, which I do almost every night with my nighttime routine, I kind of start getting things ready for the next day.

Annie: Yeah. And motivation is also something that kind of goes, seems to go hand in hand with willpower. And we've kind of been using these terms thus far interchangeably, but motivation is actually our willingness to do things. And the thing about motivation is at times it can feel abundant. Like you have all the motivation and like, "Yes, we're going to do all the things." And then at other times it's like "I'm just so unmotivated, I can't, I can't do anything at all."

Jen: Right.

Annie: You've felt like that-

Jen: Totally.

Annie: You've felt that burst of motivation and I think the myth is, again, it goes back to that people that are achieving their goals or they're going to the gym five, six days a week and they're meal planning and their meal prepping and they're eating the foods that the meal plan and plan and they seem so disciplined also have unlimited sources of motivation. And that is not the case either. No one, no one is riding this motivation high all the time, every day.

Jen: Even people who, say, prep meals in advance, I prep some or portion of food I'm usually on the weekends and that sets us up for success during the week, but by no means am I cooking and preparing all of my food. You sometimes see on Instagram, you know, like, people who, like, have all these dishes and they line them up and they post meal prep Sunday Hashtag motivation.

Annie: It makes for a great photo.

Jen: Yes. And they have all their breakfast, all their lunches, all their snacks, all their suppers lined up for the week. Which, honestly, all the power to you. Some weeks I probably could use that. I just don't have time on the weekends to do in depth preps like that. But I do perhaps some and I do meal plan so I know what's coming. That's when meal planning can be great because it takes away the mental energy of deciding what you're going to eat. But what I will say is even the stuff I do prep, I'm not, I don't always feel motivated to eat it. I'm not like, "Oh, can't wait!" I'm like-

Annie: Yes! Amen!

Jen: And I think even the people who prep all those meals in advance, they might seem really motivated on Sunday cause they've got all these prep meals, but I bet you by Thursday they're eating the same lunch that they had all week and they're just like not thrilled. Or drowning in BBQ sauce.

Annie: I can't tell you how many times I have and this is something I would have done back in my deep dieting years is, you know, this on again off again thing, I would like clean out the kitchen. I'd have this like motivation usually triggered, I mean, let's just revisit the diet cycle here. Triggered by shame. I'd see a photo of myself and like, "Ugh, got to lose 10 pounds!" Clean up the kitchen. I'd run to the grocery store, buy all this produce and lean meats and veggies and fruits and like I'm going to do this so well this week. And then, like, come Thursday I'm like, "Ugh!" Because you get this burst of motivation and then to, like, continue to the follow through is, like, that's much harder and when you rely on motivation to do the things that's bound to happen.

That's exactly what we would expect from a human because again, no one is riding this high of motivation, seven days a week, 24, seven hours, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's unreliable and it's fleeting. It comes and it goes, it ebbs and flows. It rises throughout the month, throughout the day. And, like, I notice it, my motivation rises and falls throughout the day and even in particular to do certain things. If I wanted to have motivation to go work out I know that it needs to be mid to late morning.

If I wait until 6:00 PM to work out, it's probably not going to happen. Maybe some days, but probably not. Vice versa, if I try to work late at night, I can't work late at night. It needs to be like three, four o'clock seems to be like a really productive hour for me. So if I have something important to do, like, you know, kind of stack your day to where the motivation fits that task.

Jen: Which can work. For me, the only realistic time I have to work out is super early in the morning. So I get up at 5:30 and I work out from six till seven three days a week. And I am never, ever, ever hopping out of bed excited, like "I can't freaking wait." It's just become a habit and which can lead us into a discussion about values and goals. But ultimately for me,I made a commitment to do this to my future self. So when I get up in the morning, I just don't let myself question it. Obviously if I've had a rough sleep or a sick kid, I will not get up at that hour. You know, I have grace with myself and I'm realistic. But yeah, I'm never motivated to do it. It's just simply become a habit for me. And something that's very important to me.

Annie: I think that's a common mistake people make is they're sitting around waiting for motivation to strike them like lightning from the sky and as a result they're at the mercy of motivation. So they can't take action until they're motivated. That's like this belief that they have in their head. But you can also flip it and action leads to motivation, which research has proven as well.

And I think just anecdotally, you would probably say the same thing. I would say the same thing. Like you get that first set in, you get your workout clothes on, you get into the gym and you start the workout and it's like, "Okay, I can do this now." And then you'll do it, and then it snowballs and it's like, and then you retrain your habit loop in your brain, like, I get up, I do the thing. The reward is I feel good. I may be more productive during the day, in the long term I'm improving my health, I'm increasing my strength, I'm learning new skills and then that's how habits are formed.

Jen: Yeah, absolutely.

Annie: Without relying on motivation.

Jen: Right. Yeah.

Annie: Boom.

Jen: And that's why a lot of people give up on workout routines, right? Like how many people start something new and within three weeks they're done because they just, they lose, they're super motivated at the beginning, everybody is, when I started this new lifting program, well, its Arms Like Annie, it's your program, Annie,, I was very motivated but that really it doesn't last. And then you, then it's boring because then you're just putting in reps.

But that's actually where the magic starts happening, I think, is actually those boring stages when you don't want to, that's when you're starting to, you're not relying on motivation anymore and you are truly training in that habit cycle and you might feel yourself resisting and trying to go back to old habits. Right? When my old habit is to sleep till seven, not get up at 5:30. But that's truly when the magic starts happening. That's truly around even where the tipping point starts happening, right, into forming a habit. And so that's why it's important to push through but not push through in the way that push through and find more motivation. It's like just push through like you're there, like this is, this is where it's going to happen.

Annie: So that's, inside Balance365, that's something we call the Habit Hangover often. Like, we see that it's pretty common. Like, because people-

Jen: This isn't fun anymore.

Annie: Yeah. When they're motivated and they're like, "Okay, now this is just hard work and I'm not near as excited as I was when I started three weeks ago. And the newness, the shininess has worn off.

Jen: Yes, new and shiny is gone. Yes.

Annie: And again, that's another vote that we've said it before on the podcast. We say it all the time in our community. That's why we start habits small because when that motivation falters and it will then you're not relying, you don't need like this Richard Simmons level of willpower and motivation to do the thing that you're supposed to be doing if you start a little bit smaller versus like doing all the things at once.

Jen: Yeah. So actually because I had struggled with, we moved a couple of years ago, a year and a half ago, I guess, and since we moved, I really struggled with my workout habit. So it was kind of last fall sometime where I just epiphany, "Look, this isn't working. I'm not being consistent because I haven't been able to find a time in my day that this really works for me. It definitely does not work at night for me." And that's something I just kept trying to do, trying to do, trying to do and then finally I was like, "Look, you're not going to work out at night."

And so that's when I started getting up in the mornings and I actually kind of had the epiphany that's really what time works best for me and I had to start going to bed earlier and I started with twice a week actually. I was doing Mondays and Wednesdays only and that felt very realistic for me. And when things did get hard, I would say, "You know what? It's just two mornings a week. Like you, you can do this. It is just two mornings a week." And then when I felt ready, which is about two months after I started, I added in Friday mornings and now that's going really good. And we're going to add in a cardio, just a cardio session. And yeah.

So, and that's just, that's really how habits form, right? Like that's so boring. But you scale up as you solidify new skills and habits, then you can add in something else and something else. And then all of a sudden you're living it and you're going, "Oh, this is happening and I'm doing the thing."

Annie: I'm doing the thing.

Jen: Yeah.

Annie: Or the things. So to recap thus far, willpower and motivation is not what keeps most "successful people" going. It's their habits. And the next kind of layer I want to add on to that, which we've already touched on, is that your habits are highly influenced by your environment. And I want to share this study, I think we've shared it before, but really quickly, this is again, something inspired from James Clear shared before, but they did this study of soda and water consumption in hospital. And what they did was they let people choose their soda and their water consumption for two weeks, three weeks, whatever. They collected the data on the sales of each.

After three weeks they added, they didn't change anything about the soda. They added water to different locations, more convenient locations throughout the hospital cafeteria. So again, all they changed was made water more available. And as a result, water sales increased and soda sales decreased. And I think that's just such a simple example of how impactful your environment can be on your habits. They didn't say, they didn't promote or push the water or give any marketing about how soda was "bad or harmful" and water was better. They simply just offered it in more places. And people are like, "Oh, there's water. I'll take a water now."

Jen: Totally. So in my house, Oh boy, we talk about this all the time. My veggie tray.

Annie: Yes. Yes.

Jen: So fruits and vegetables are often things that people struggle to get enough in. And you have to make them convenient and part of your environment. One way I do this is one, I buy bagged salads and I just kind of have no shame around that when my salads are pretty much prepped for me, I'm eating them and enjoy them, but I am just not going to start from scratch every single meal to create a salad. That's a lot of work. And or maybe, maybe it's not a lot, but it's too much for me. And a second is I make a veggie tray every, that's kind of part of my meal prep. On Sundays I make a Veggie tray. I've got like an old one of those old Tupperware ones.

I make a Veggie tray and then I'm usually restocking it by Wednesday morning. And I bring that out for most meals, lunch and supper for me, my kids. And I also pull from it when I'm packing lunches for my kids school lunches. And I keep all our fruit, most of our fruit, if it doesn't have to be refrigerated, I have it on the counter in just a little fruit basket and we go through fruit like crazy around here. But I have made fruits and vegetables very, I have put my energy into making those two things very accessible and then I don't have to think about it during the week. It just happens naturally. And that's what we're trying to say here, right?

Annie: Yeah. And I think the other aspect to that is visual cues are really, really important. So because when you open up your fridge, you see the Veggie tray and it's, like, there.

Jen: It's there. It's right at eye level. It's not tucked, you know, it's not tucked away. It's not in the back. I don't have my vegetables tucked in the drawers and the bottom. It's like right there.

Annie: Exactly. I even remember you talking about, which you've seen my Instagram videos, you know, my kitchen also houses my dumbbells and kettlebells. But, but you did the same thing too, you were like, look, I'm not getting in a lot of movement and I want to, and it would be simple to incorporate some kettlebell swings, but in order for me to actually do that, I need the kettle bell in my kitchen. So every time you walked by it, so you ended up doing, you know what, 10 swings a handful of times throughout the day.

Jen: Yeah. So yeah, so I have a big round Moved Nat yoga mat off my kitchen island. There's kind of just a space off my kitchen that's just blank space. I know not everybody will be able to find a space, but there's other ways to do it. But anyway, sorry, I have this huge round Yoga Mat. The boys use it to sit and play cars on or they sit on it and read. But I also use it, like, it's just there. So if I feel like doing some movement, whether it's getting on the ground and doing some glute bridges or pushups or whatever, my mat is right there and I don't have to go on my gross floors. But, and then I also have just, you know, I have my garage gym,, but I have one kettlebell that I keep up in the kitchen and it's kind of on the lighter end, but I can do, you know, I can do lots of things with it in my kitchen and I, yeah, I see it and I'll do it right.

Which I know it sounds silly, but if I'm waiting for water to boil on the stove, I'll go over and do a couple of kettlebell swings or a couple of pushups or, yeah. And I mean that just works well for me. I'm not saying it'll work for everybody, but it just works well for me. And other people might find benefit in having a yoga mat in their living room and some weights, you know, beside the TV. And so when they're watching TV, they might just feel like, yeah, I could get down on the floor, do some bridges, some presses, some, you know, some yoga stretches, anything, right?

Because if it's, but it's just about looking at your environment and say, how does my environment support more of what I want in it? And then on the flip side of that, which we talked about with Traci Mann, is how can I put small barriers in place between me and things that I want less of in my life. So for me, I keep, like all our nuts and seeds and chocolates, like really high calorie, high energy foods. I keep a lot of those above my fridge in the cupboard and then I don't, I can't see them. There's no visual cue to eat them. I'm having them when I want them, right. When I think of them and want them and reach for them.

Annie: Right. And then you know that if I want them it's because I actually want them, not just because I see them and then I want them, which is like marketing 101. We think that we're in control. We think we're like making the choice. But a lot of times it's like the power of suggestion. Like I've said it before, my kids don't want the Goldfish at Target until they see the Goldfish at Target, at the end cap.

Jen: It's why grocery stores put all that stuff right at the checkout. Right? All the trashy magazines, all the indulgent foods, like the chocolate bars, they put it there because they know you're going to be standing there awhile, waiting at the checkout and you're just more likely to grab it the longer you're standing there.

Annie: Right. And the other thing about habits too is that, habits and your environment is that we often have a set of habits per the location we're in. So if you think about the habits you have in your bedroom, the habits you have in your kitchen, the habits you have in your, in the gym, the habits you have in a grocery store, you probably grocery shop the same path every time. You have your routine, right? You like grab your produce, you move to meats or whatever it is. Same thing with the gym. You walk to the same space every time, you put your bag down, you go use the same equipment, you probably have a favorite treadmill or a favorite squat rack or whatever. The thing is important to know is that it can be easier to change habits in a new environment.

So if possible, like I'm not saying go out and buy a new house, but could you rearrange your furniture so maybe, or take a TV out of your bedroom or rearrange your furniture so it's not facing the TV and it's more conducive to reading or whatever habit you're trying to change. Or put a kettle bell in your kitchen or go to a different grocery store. Like would your shopping-

Jen: Rearrange up cupboards or, yeah.

Annie: Yeah. You don't have to like completely like burn everything down and start from new. But can you think outside the box of how your environment shapes your habits? Like even, James Clear, and I'm guilty of this, was talking about your environment should have a purpose. So, you know, he was working at his kitchen island. But he also wants to eat in his kitchen. And then it's kind of like, there was no boundary. That's like, now I'm working, now I'm eating, I'm eating and I'm working. So he created a new small environment out of his bedroom for an office or whatever. And like that's his work. When he's working, when he's there, he's working. When he's in his kitchen, he's eating and you know, on and so forth. So-

Jen: I just-

Annie: Go ahead.

Jen: I posted about this in Balance365 a couple of months ago. I totally had that epiphany in the wintertime when it was chilly out, I started working at my kitchen table near the fire instead of my office. And I started snacking more and more and more. And then one day I realized, it's because you're just staring at the kitchen all day. You're just staring at the cupboard, staring at the kitchen and you're just triggered to go grab something to eat. Right. And so I moved back down to my office and that problem is gone. I'm not snacking between breakfast and lunch anymore.

Annie: Right.

Jen: And it's crazy, right? You think, you know, you think this comes to motivation and willpower again, but you just can't believe how much your environment influences your choices. Right. And again, my goal is not perfection. My goal is balance. So I'm not like saying take all the treats out of your cupboards and all of that. I feel like I have an appropriate amount of treats in my house stored in a space that aligns with the goal I have of balance, right.

Annie: Right, right. Yeah. And I think that it's, you know what all of this really boils down to for me and I'm assuming for you is that self control and willpower and motivation can work in the short term. They can be a great short term strategy. And I wouldn't want anyone listening to this to think I'm super motivated, but I somehow have to like contain that motivation or pull back from that motivation because I don't want to like misstep or whatever. Like, no, if you're motivated to do something, you can follow that. Like you can explore it. It's not that it's a bad thing, but the point is, is that a better, in our experience, a better long term strategy for reaching goals boils down to habits and environment.

Jen: Right. I don't, sometimes I feel super motivated to go for an extra run or walk or I do an extra workout. But another thing I just want to note is you don't want to, when you're feeling motivated, that's not where you want to set your bar, right? Like you don't, you know, some weeks I have my baseline habits, say, like my three workouts a week and that's just kinda my minimum at this point. I miss the odd one. We just took two weeks off, actually, me and my workout partner and that's all good. We're right back to our three times a week. But the odd time when I feel like an extra run or I feel like an extra workout, I don't bring my bar up there. I don't say, okay, now I'm at five times. I just, you know what, I recognize it as a week, even a month sometimes where I had a burst of energy and I utilize that and that felt great, but I don't bring my bar up there. I just recognize.

Annie: Yes. It was just a bonus.

Jen: I just feel motivated. Yeah. It was just a bonus.

Annie: Yeah. That's great. This is good. I hope that this helps clear up a lot of the questions that we get about willpower and also helps reduce some of the shame and guilt that people might be experiencing if they don't feel those emotions or if they don't feel like they have those traits or those characteristics innately, and then, because I think I, you know, just on a personal note, I think people think that I am motivated, for example, to go to the gym three, four times a week or five times a week. I'm not. Like Jen said, like, there's days where I'm like, "Eh, I don't know." Like I'll text my girlfriend, it's like, "I need you to talk me into this."

Jen: Right.

Annie: Or "This is workout really doesn't look fun. I don't think I can do this," but it falls back to habits. I dropped my kids off at school, I'd go to the gym and if I can just get my kids in the car, I know that that trigger loop or that habit loop has started with my trigger of getting kids to school. And I know the rest will just fall in naturally thanks to habits.

Jen: Yes. And I do think it is really key too, I don't think a lot of people do this and I think it's such a great thing to do is to stop, pause, especially if you've gone through any life transition, like had a baby, changed jobs, moved and think about where you can decrease the decisions you're making in the day. So my nighttime routine consists of, you know, washing my face, brushing my teeth, getting my workout clothes out, putting them right beside the bathroom sink so that when I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is get dressed. I get my coffee pot out, the coffee out. So you know, so just in the mornings, I just, I don't have to think. I just get up and do, and then I head down to the gym.

Annie: That's great. Awesome. If you want to continue the conversation on willpower and motivation, come to our free private Facebook group with our Healthy Habits Happy Moms on Facebook. Jen, Lauren and I are in there frequently along with some really, really rad community members that have been around for a while and have great contributions, so we hope to see in there.

Jen: Yes.

Annie: Alright, thanks, Jen.

Jen: Bye, Annie.

Annie: Bye. Bye. This episode is brought to you by the Balance365 program. If you're ready to say goodbye to quick fixes and false promises and yes to building healthy habits and a life you're 100% in love with, then checkout to learn more.