willpower and/or effort

scrap of paper that says write, with underlining

4/18 edit: this took a different turn than I was expecting. I had intended to simply express some excitement about keeping up with the writing streak. Going through past posts to add image text helps me see that I’ve actually written a fair bit. On a day to day basis, I am often frustrated by the product so it has been a great exercise in being OK with muck. I am surprised that I haven’t skipped a day. It helps that word press gives a little congrats for keeping a streak going.

Just had one of those duh epiphanies about the difference between stopping and starting a habit. The first requires willpower. The latter, willpower *and* effort.

This is a gross simplification. Not everything is within our locus of control. And both can require a lot of scaffolding, an exoskeleton of other behavioral logistical and emotional supports.

But it’s relevant to my habits. Some things I want  to stop or decrease, others start or increase.

Booze. I’ve got a relationship with it. If alcohol was not unhealthy in so many compounding ways, I would savor a bottle of red wine every night.  Last summer, I made a commitment to take a break from drinking until the end of the year. Mission accomplished.

Not drinking required willpower. I don’t like to admit that it was hard and tonight’s not the night to write about that. But abstaining from alcohol did not technically require me to *do* anything. 

Going on a run, building my business, cleaning the house, making and sticking with a plan… these require a push. Once I get going I’m fine. Breaking free from a standstill is the issue. I have to force my body to take action.

Hmmmm. My little lightbulb moment is dimming.  It’s not that stopping a behavior requires less effort than starting one.  It certainly isn’t always easier. And when we have to take  action to facilitate  resistance to the  undesirable behavior,  it gets fuzzy fast.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs and just trying to understand why it’s so hard for me to take action. Not drinking for five months was a challenge. Lacing up running shoes a few times a week should not be.

Ugh. I think I do know one reason stopping is in some ways easier  than starting. It’s a clearly defined success. I really wanted to get a donut this morning but marched past Dunkin. Success. When I put on the tea kettle instead of popping a cork? Gold star! Quitting smoking (11/11/2001) was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in terms of willpower, resolve, impulse control. Whatever it’s called, it stayed in the daily win column for a long time.

Blargh I need to pick this thread up again another day. In summary, change is hard. Thousands of books and talk show hosts have already covered this territory. I just have to keep plugging away to find something that works for me.

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