So far there seems to be two schools regarding willpower. The first one claims that willpower is always at hand ready to be used. The second school holds the view that willpower is a limited resource and weakens over time. While the latter seems to be our day-to-day experience, the former is especially advocated by self-help gurus and in certain “success”-books.

Willpower is a muscle
But there is more and more evidence that we'd better care for our willpower or otherwise we might be without it when it really matters. As Roy Baumeister from Florida State University shows in his latest book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, willpower can be depleted. It can weaken like a muscle and similar to a muscle, willpower can recover (e.g. after a good night sleep) but we must use it wisely.

Making decisions weakens your willpower
When we think of willpower, we usually think of big task that are imminent. Something where we have to “pull through”, when we have to “grit our teeth.” But apparently, willpower is also used up by each, trivial decision we have make throughout the day. This is a very important finding, because we underestimate the amount of decision we have to made.

So far, we usually do not pay a lot of attention to limiting our decision. But when important things lie ahead of us, it is advisable to reduce the number of decisions. For example, if you have an important meeting in the afternoon (your boss, your mother-in-law) you might give yourself a break with that new rigid low-carb-low-fun diet. It would cost you willpower to stick to it, and you might need it later on.

Not all decision can be avoided, but you can circumvent making decisions when you automatize your behavior. And this is especially helpful if you want to make any change to your life (e.g. a diet, meditating regularly, daily exercises you benefit from, etc..). Enter the action-trigger...

The action-trigger
To automatize our behavior we need to install a trigger that induces the intended behavior. As soon as you encounter the trigger, the action will be executed. At the beginning, you have to perform the intended action a couple of times on deliberately to link the trigger with the behavior. But after a while – and you will know when, because at that point you don't have to deliberately decide to perform the behavior anymore – automatization works in your favor. Here are three triggers you can use:

> A point in time
Set up a date with yourself. The point in time is your signal to execute the behavior. Don't allow any wiggle room, because it would invite decision-making again. Say 8 a.m is the time you set up for meditation or your Swedish Gymnastics, you would just do it at eight in the morning.

> A specific event
If you want to have more flexibility or your daily routine is not suitable for an appointed date, you can choose an assigned event to trigger the behavior. This could be, for example, waking-up, leaving the bathroom in the morning, when you arrive at your desk at work, or the moment you come home.

> A location
Now your action-trigger is a specific location. Whenever you encounter the location, it's time for the assigned action. Examples: your car, the metro, an elevator at work, etc. Those places are especially suitable for short mini-exercises, like a short meditation, a breathing exercise, or a visualization. Simply anything that needs only a short term to execute, but that is beneficial, if applied regularly in the long term.

Author's Bio: 

Olaf Schwennesen, M.A. is a certified coach for solution focused therapy and a licensed natural health professional for psychotherapy. He is working as a lecturer and trainer for social and methodical competences and in private practice in Berlin, Germany.