5 reasons why you should never depend on will power to break a habit

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Is will power constant?

As soon as bad habits are mentioned will power always comes to the mind. Most people think that the ability to break a habit depends solely on will power because they are not aware of a very important fact which that will power is not constant.

If you have the will to resist a certain urge then after an event or two happens you might find yourself unable to resist that same urge. In other words, your will power changes throughout your day in such a way that depending on it alone to break a habit might be a bad idea.

5 reasons why you should never depend on will power to break a habit

  • 1) Will power and cognitive load: The more stress you get subjected to throughout the day the greater the load put on your brain. As a result of this load your brain functions get affected and your ability to resist urges becomes lower. This is one reason why most people are more likley to do bad things at night than in the morning
  • 2) Energy runs low: The more energy you consume throughout the day the weaker your self control gets. As you keep burning your reserves the energy needed to assist your brain in maintaining good self control diminishes
  • 3) Sleep deprivation and will power: Some days we don't find time to sleep well. Studies found that when you don't sleep well your brain finds it hard to resist urges and control its impulses. Even if you have a strong will one day of poor sleep can affect your ability to resist a bad habit (see also How to sleep fast)
  • 4) Bad Events lower will power: After receiving bad news your will power can become weaker. People are more likley to smoke, drink or use drugs when they feel bad or irritated. Because no one can guess how his day will be like depending on will power alone to break a habit might not be a good idea
  • 5) Unconscious cues: Lets suppose that you were trying to quit drinking then suddenly saw a scene in a movie where people were drinking. In such a case this image will go directly to your subconscious mind bypassing both your conscious mind and will power. Because your conscious mind will be so busy with the movie suggestions will get sent directly to your unconscious mind (see also How to use words to hypnotize people)

So how to break bad habits?

So after you knew that will power isn't a very powerful defense line i am sure you are wondering about the methods you should follow to quit a bad habit. Here they are:

  • 1) Avoid the triggers not the habit: If you want to quit drinking then you should stop going to pubs instead of going there then hope that your will power will assist you. Want to stop eating unhealthy food? then make sure you don't have any in your refrigerator
  • 2) Use will power to avoid the triggers: In such a case the good use of will power would be to avoid going to the places that might remind you of the habit. By doing so you would be building another defense line to protect yourself from the bad habit
  • 3) Start on the bad day: In my book Breaking the habit tonight I said that deciding to quit a habit on a very bad day will make resisting the urges on all other days much easier

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