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By Mark Creedon

This is ridiculous, but my love of ice cream taught me about changing habits to become more disciplined

I love ice cream.

It is one of my greatest weaknesses.

I like lots of flavours but my all-time favourite is mint choc chip.

If there is mint chocolate chip ice cream in the house I can hear it calling my name, constantly!

You know I can remember taking my son Nicholas to the ice cream shop when he was a small boy.

I would offer him a taste of different flavours and he would look wide-eyed through the glass counter at all the myriad of colours to ultimately decide on vanilla.

It’s still his favourite twenty years later.

Three Scoops Of Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream On A Square Plate

Why am I telling you about ice cream?

Well, whilst I love ice cream, the older I get the more ice cream loves me.

It hangs around my midsection, adding to my beer belly far longer than it used to.

I used to be able to lose weight just by thinking about it but it simply isn’t that easy anymore.

So, I have to find ways to diminish my ice cream consumption.

I’m not cutting it out completely, life is way too short for that.

Working on ways to cut down on ice cream got me thinking about how we change habits and become disciplined.

One of my business partners is incredibly disciplined.

He exercises every morning rain, hail or shine and he never eats any more than two squares of chocolate.

I’ve always struggled with discipline at that level.

I’ve tried applying willpower but my willpower voice is drowned out by the ice cream calling my name.

So, how do we change a habit or create discipline when willpower fails us?


The problem with willpower

The problem with willpower is that it is, in my view, a diminishing resource.

We only have so much willpower available to us on any given day.

We use some of it to get to work instead of a day at the beach, to be patient with other drivers (or our spouse or children).

Sometimes by the end of the day, my willpower is depleted and that’s when the ice cream voice is at her loudest.

Josh Kauffman, author of The Personal MBA says that our ability to use willpower to change behaviour is flawed because it is a depleting resource.

Instead of using willpower to change an actual behaviour, which means it has to be used each and every time, he suggests we use that willpower to create guiding structures to change our environment.

Using that theory, a guiding structure is a behaviour we can build on, a positive and non-depleting resource.

As we develop these structures, our environment changes and behaviour change becomes a natural consequence.

Let’s use this theory to solve my ice cream challenge

If I stick to the willpower method every night I am going to have to tap into that willpower, depleted after a day working and hope there is enough there to support me.

It will be an everyday challenge.

Sometimes I will win and sometimes that bowl of mint choc chip will be in my hand before I know it.

I may even consider that a win some days.

If on the other hand, I create some guiding structures where I use my willpower to create a new environment then I only need to use that willpower once.

That would mean that when I am at the supermarket I create a structure that excludes ice cream from the shopping list.

Perhaps I may create a structure that changes my environment by buying a small tub initially, or perhaps a single ice cream or I may even move to a healthier alternative such as yoghurt.

Business Persons Plan A Project Plan Structure

By creating this guiding structure I am changing my environment

If ice cream isn’t in my freezer I can’t have it and I won’t need to have that nightly willpower battle.

As time passes I can layer those guiding structures to change the way I shop and the environment I live in.

In that way, I have had to use willpower just once to create the structure and the environment changes as a direct result.

Over time, layered change will bring about a change in habit and behaviour.

The next time you have a habit or some behaviour you would like to change, poly your willpower in a way that changes your environment by creating guiding structures so you don’t have to dip into the willpower bank over and over again.

Good luck, I’m off to do some grocery shopping… and ice cream is not on the list!

About Mark Creedon Mark Creedon is Director of Metropole's Business Accelerator Mastermind and business coach to some of Australia's leading entrepreneurs - each who call him their "unreasonable friend"
Visit Metropole's Business Accelerator Mastermind.
1 comment

Creating barriers is a good thing, but you have already conceded that life is too short not to have it. Resistance trained folk are the best at regulating their bodies and building muscle which acts as a metabolic sponge. So aside from creating barri ...Read full version

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