Willpower; a simple word that creates all sorts of problems when it comes right down to it. At one time or another, we’ve all stumbled in a way that made us think, ‘If I’d just had more willpower, I could’ve succeeded.’ It hurts to lose a battle of wills because willpower is one of those things you seem to have enough of it, or you don’t.
For example, there’s the marshmallow study conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel. He asked children to sit in front of a marshmallow without eating it for fifteen minutes (with the promise of a second one if they managed to make it). Those who succeeded this simple test of willpower ended up being more successful in almost every aspect of their life than those who couldn’t wait.
Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure I would’ve failed the test. I tend to be a bit impulsive and the marshmallow probably would’ve been in my mouth as soon as the door closed behind the researchers.
So, does that mean I’m doomed for failure? Well, hopefully not.
If only I hadn’t eaten that marshmallow….
I was recently asked to read a book called ‘Change Anything’ and I nearly declined. I love to read, but I’m more of a crime procedural guy, so this book wasn’t quite up my alley. However, I gave it a chapter or two of my time and I really liked how the book was based in research (I’ve mentioned before that I actually spend a lot of my time on the internet just reading the results of studies) so I read through the entire thing.
I would highly recommend the book to anyone that feels they would’ve failed the marshmallow test. Willpower isn’t something I felt I had much control over, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be successful.
The ideas we’ve gleamed from this book, and the lessons we’ve learned from the previous Challenges are being applied to create a new iShaper Challenge going forward.
Things we’ve learned:
1. The Negative Matters:
While we liked the idea of rewarding only the positive and forgetting about the negatives, it didn’t much work. Feeling that you can’t fail, also takes away some of the motivation for success. You weren’t working towards anything more than a participation trophy.
2. Tracking everything is too much.
This is one that we should’ve realized right from the beginning since we know the research. It’s hard enough to get anyone to track their daily caloric intake and we were asking everyone to track the fact that they had tracked their calories, proteins, sugars, and every positive choice they had made each day. This was a bit overwhelming.
3. The objective wasn’t clear.
The overall idea was to show that little choices made a bigger difference, but that’s not what came through. In fact, most staffers just wanted to change one specific thing, but because they wanted to make more positive decisions, they didn’t take the time to focus on the major habit and they didn’t make much headway on creating a new healthier habit.
4. Sometimes rocks are just rocks.
We started at beans, and moved to rocks because, frankly, (haha…pun) the beans were a bit depressing. The idea was to fill up the jar quickly with your positive choices, but after a week, even the strongest competitors were looking at their jars and feeling unimpressed. We switched it to rocks, and while the results showed a bit better, in the end, to me, they were just rocks. Tell me they represent the positive choices I make all you want, but my mind won’t make it past the fact that a rock is just a rock.
So, how do we fix it?
Well, for the new iShaper Challenge we’ve made some changes, and a lot of the work is going to fall to our iShapers to help themselves succeed. The hard truth is that only you know you. You know what motivates you and what doesn’t. I can’t tell you that, but hopefully, I can help you out with some ideas.
Here’s how the new iShaper challenge will work.
1. Get some skin in the game:
You’re going to need to want your reward. Anyone that participates and posts their results from their first month on our Facebook page is still getting a free iShaper t-shirt, but let’s be honest. That’s not enough. Think of something that works for you. For me, it’s money because I know money is a big motivator for me.
2. Don’t Just Envision.
Studies show it’s harder for our minds to put value on things that we can’t hold. For example, people who use cash instead of credit/debit cards tend to spend less money on frivolous purchases because they see a much more physical representation of what they are doing. To that end, I went to my bank and I got $155 in 5’s. A five-dollar bill for every day of the month.
3. Think of a negative that works for you.
Being an election year, this was easy for me. I don’t want to get too much into politics, but I know there is a campaign or political group each of you dislikes. It doesn’t have to be a candidate you dislike, just a cause you might vehemently oppose. It can be something else that you would despise spending money on, but the point is it’s got to be something that you will really not want to put money towards.
4. Think of the habit:
It takes 28 days to effectively change a habit, and this month is going to be all about creating a good habit or fixing a bad. If you can change one habit each month for a year, can you imagine how much healthier you would be? Not only that, it would make all the changes more permanent.
Once you’ve set that up you’re going to start the iShaper challenge. You’ll have two jars for this. For me, one represents a vacation fund for time off I’ve planned, the other is a political organization I really don’t agree with. (Won’t mention specifics, as we don’t want to turn the comment section into a political debate!) On 1st I’m starting the 90-day shape up challenge that askfitnesscoach.com created. It’s a 90-day workout strategy and I really want to work on creating a healthy workout habit.
So how it works is each day during the month that I successfully complete my day’s exercise I take one of the $5’s and place it in my vacation fund. Each day I head to bed without exercising, the $5 goes into the other jar. At the end of the month, any money I’ve made towards the vacation goes to me and I get to spend it guilt-free because I’ve earned it. Anything in the other jar gets donated to the organization that I oppose.
Carla Meine, our CEO, took this idea for a test run. She wanted to stop drinking Diet Cokes and the results speak for themselves.
“I know it was that negative that really helped. Whenever I thought about drinking a Diet Coke, I would think ‘do you want it enough to give that money to that organization?’ and I didn’t. I’ve made it through the entire month without drinking a single soda.”
So keep your eye on our Facebook page. More staffers will be posting their ideas on what they will be doing. And if you’re currently working with the brain training CDs, they make a great tool for the iShaper challenge.
If you have any questions just fire off an email or ask in the comments!