Sunday, January 29, 2012

Post-Divorce Change Requires Willpower!

One of the things I hear about a lot is the trouble people have giving up their cherished ways of thinking about their lives and behaving post-divorce:  what the future will hold; how holidays should be; what their financial situation wouldda, shouldda, couldda been; how they relate to their ex; how they talk about their marriage, etc.  The new insights about willpower can help with making changes.  Perhaps you’ve resolved in this new year (it’s still January so I’m still talking about the new year), to change your thinking or ways of relating.

Changing anything is hard.  It requires willpower.  So here are a few tips from the new book, Willpower, by Baumeister and Tierney, to help with those nagging thoughts.

1.  Willpower is like a muscle that can be strengthened.  Practice will make it stronger.  Decide what you’re going to work on, and then keep at it until it becomes a habit that you no longer have to think about or work at.  Practice may not make perfect, but it makes much better.  You can change how you think post-divorce.

2.  Willpower is like a muscle, so it can get tired.  Trying to change too many things at once will tire out that muscle.  You’ll wind up wimping out on one or more of them.  Using that muscle too much by having too much contact with your ex while you’re trying to be nice, or trying not to feel upset, will fatigue that muscle.  Talking too much about your ex while you’re trying to be nice, or trying not to feel upset, will fatigue that muscle.  That’s why texting and email are good.  They reduce the contact.

3.  Willpower draws on our mental reserves which can be depleted in a variety of ways.  Making a lot of decisions depletes mental reserves.  Other things that deplete our mental reserves include not getting proper sleep and diet.  Make sure you replenish depleted reserves as often as you can, and be aware when you’re running on empty.  Don’t take on too much when your willpower reserve is depleted.  You can accept the future post-divorce, but you don’t want to be reviewing your finances or planning for the future when you’re feeling depleted.

You must find the fine balance between exercising your willpower muscle to strengthen it, but not overworking it.  Think about willpower being like any other muscle; you can do strengthening exercises, but do too much and you risk shut down or injury.   So exercise smart.  Decide what’s important right now and choose just a couple of new year’s resolutions.

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