This post is about a simple method to increase willpower for stressed out busy people. I’m a lawyer and a parent, and have got a lot going on. And of course, like everybody, I want to be better about eating, drink less, exercise more, read more, things like that. And sometimes you’re just tired and it’s hard to do the things that you know you want to do to get to your goals.
The Willpower Instinct
Sometime ago, I listened on Audible to a book called The Willpower Instinct, (affiliate link) which was a great book. And listening to books on Audible is a great way to read more, if you don’t have time, or you’re in the car a lot, like I am.
I’m going to share with you a mnemonic that I created to help boost my willpower during those times when I don’t want to be doing what I know I should be doing.
One of the core lessons of the book is that it’s hard to exercise your willpower when you’re stressed out. Also, it’s important to be aware of the choices you make, even the choices that you make that are not the greatest choices, and the feelings that you have before and after making those choices, so that you’re more aware and can make better decisions in the future.
Increase Willpower Through this Mnemonic
Okay so, the mnemonic is MASA RAID. This is what is stands for:
A: Avoid Moral Licensing
S: Slowed Breathing
A: Avoid Stress
I: Imagine Best Future Self
M for meditation. You’ve heard it about a million times. Because I’m so busy and there’s other things that I need to be doing, or want to be doing, my goal is to just meditate for five minutes a day. Specifically, I try to do focused breathing meditation five minutes. I do it right when I wake up and I think it’s helped me be a little bit more centered.
Avoid Moral Licensing
Now, we get to the first A in MASA. This one is the avoiding moral licensing, which is kind of a mouthful, but it’s basically the idea that if you’ve done something good earlier that day or that week, sometimes people will use that as a method to break their willpower. So, if they’re saying, “Well, I didn’t drink all week, I’m going to let loose now,” you want to avoid that mentality, that moral licensing in order to do bad because you’ve done good in the past.
Now, we’ve gotten to S, the S stands for slowed breathing. This is a technique that I had heard of before, but sometimes forget to implement. All you’re doing is slowing down your breaths, taking 10 to 15 seconds per breath. Try to do that for 20 minutes, but you can do it for less. Like the meditation, just do it for five minutes. It triggers some biological response in your body that it’s okay to relax.
Then, we get to the next A, which is awareness. Make note that you’re having this willpower challenge and make a note of how you feel. It’s important to be aware of your choices. It is difficult to control your thoughts, and your feelings, and your cravings, but just try to be a little more aware. And that kind of goes hand in hand with meditation.
Then, we get to R in RAID. That stands for relax. This is one of my favorite techniques. Just lay down, don’t watch TV, don’t just scroll through things on the internet. Just lay down, maybe listen to music. You could read a little bit, but I think the key here is to lay down and relax. It doesn’t have to be for very long. Just set a timer on your phone, 5, 10 minutes, lay down, relax.
The next A is avoid stress. Now, this kind of goes hand in hand. You can see it’s a little bit redundant, but it’s important. So, if you’re watching TV and you see something stressful, turn it off. If you’re in a stressful situation, exit the stressful situation.
Imagine Your Future Self
Then, we get to I. I is to imagine your future self and really try to think in detail. Imagine you are doing all the things you know you should be doing, where you are behaving the way you know you should be behaving, and thinking in detail about that. Having that detailed mental picture of your ideal future self can help in giving you the willpower that you need to overcome the challenge.
Finally, we get to D, the last letter, which stands for delay. Take 10, 15 minutes before you give in and make sure that’s really what you want. If you still give in that’s okay. Just be aware, take note of it, know how you’re feeling. Even 10 to 15 minutes can help you in overcoming the willpower challenge.
There’s things that we should be doing that we’re not doing. And there’s things that we’re not doing that we should be doing. And it gets even harder when you’re working full- time, you’re a parent, and you’re dealing with “LIFE” things. We’re in the middle of this coronavirus lockdown, trying to be our best selves, it can be difficult.
Read the book, Willpower Instinct (affiliate link) for more great explanation on these techniques.
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