Whenever I weight lift, I keep a notepad nearby.  Reminders, to do list, notes: I jot them all down as I work out instead of picking up my phone. Why? Because I know I get distracted on my phone, and then I take too long working out and then I run late.  I told my husband about this.

Him: “You lack discipline.”
Me: “How is NOT using my phone lacking discipline? Isn’t that the very definition of discipline?”
Him: “Maybe.  Don’t know.”

Willpower is a finite resource, and there’s a lot of opportunities to leverage it or squander it in a day.  Like avoiding the Krispy Kremes in the breakroom or not using your smartphone when you’re driving, some acts of willpower are about resisting temptation.

But that’s only one side of the coin.  Willpower also involves taking an action instead of resisting it, i.e. proactive willpower.  Like getting to the gym and focusing on the treadmill for half-hour.

What happens when you’re trying to resist temptation AND be proactive?  

Is it a good idea to simultaneously use my limited willpower to resist my phone but also use willpower to work out? Doesn’t it seem exhausting to have to resist and initiate at the same time? That’s about as exhausting as trying to pee AND hover over the toilet.  And you get the same messy results.

So it make sense to systematically remove temptations, so that you can reserve your willpower for those habits that are proactive.  As my friend Stevie says, “Don’t fight yourself.”  For me, that means not touching my phone at all so that I can workout quickly and be done with it.  It means leaving my phone to charge in my bathroom at night, so that I don’t waste an hour in bed surfing Imgur.  It means not going to the grocery store hungry and not keeping chocolate in the house.

Architecting your life to remove temptations is the best way to free up your energy to pursue the goals you actually want to pursue.  For me, that’s exercising more, writing more, and more chasing my son around the house while roaring “I’m gonna get you!” while he shrieks with delight.

What about you?  Have you found ways to remove temptations from your life?  Let me know in the comments!