Imagine you are a muscle. A willpower muscle. Your purpose in life is to make healthy decisions and stand strong with those decisions. Unfortunately you don’t get “flexed” very often. You are tiny. You are weak. Mostly you sit there and chant to yourself “wimpy wimpy wimpy.”
You sit back and watch while your person doesn’t pick up running shoes and go for a jog, chooses jellybeans instead of broccoli, and is not always the most patient person in the world.
You think to yourself ‘when is it my turn?’ When do I get to flex my willpower?
And then things change! Your person realizes they have a willpower muscle (you). And you are a bit underused. A bit dusty. A bit out of shape.
Your person decides it is time to make some healthy changes. It is your time to shine! So your person goes for a jog. Yeah, flex the willpower muscle. Your person chooses carrot sticks for a snack. Woohoo, willpower muscle, uuuuh. Your person pauses and tries to be patient with the whiny 3-year-old attached to their leg while making dinner and changing an infant’s diaper. Flexxxxx.
You are feeling good. You start chanting to yourself “hefty hefty hefty.” With each decision you get a bit stronger. And it becomes a bit easier over time… with some things.
If I were my own best friend I would remind myself to keep making healthy decisions and help my willpower muscles grow stronger. What I am learning in this phase of life is that the more often I choose the healthy choice the stronger my “willpower muscle” becomes, at least when it comes to things like exercising and healthy eating. I know there is a lot of research related to changing habits and doing something consistently for so many days (somewhere around 21) to make a change stick and I think that probably ties in.
That being said, patience seems to be an ongoing work-in-progress. I would like to say that the more I practice patience the easier it becomes but I have not noticed that yet. I am not sure that patience is tied to willpower (and making a choice to do or not do something) so much as it is a way of existing in each moment. When I first drew this picture a few weeks ago I thought that patience was similar to making a choice about healthy eating or working out but I think it is a very different animal.
For me, being patient in the moment seems to be tied to many different factors, including finding a sense of calm in a storm, being able to pause, finding empathy and compassion for the circumstances or people who are testing my patience, and finding a way to practice all of those skills at one time. It is more than willpower and something I suspect I will continue to be challenged by in different ways.
Wishing you a day filled with healthy choices, whether that be exercise, food, sleep, or a little self-kindness (and maybe even some patience).