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Willpower vs. Discipline: which is best for building lasting habits



As a coaching psychologist, you are likely to encounter clients who struggle with building habits or making positive changes in their lives. Two terms that often come up in discussions about habit formation are willpower and discipline. While they are often used interchangeably, they are distinct concepts that have different implications for habit formation.


Willpower refers to the ability to resist short-term temptations in favour of long-term goals. It involves exerting self-control in the face of temptation or distraction. For example, a person who wants to lose weight may use willpower to resist the temptation to eat unhealthy food or skip a workout.


Discipline, on the other hand, is about creating structure and routine to support long-term goals. It involves setting clear boundaries, establishing a regular schedule, and prioritizing tasks in order of importance. For example, a person who wants to become more productive may establish a daily routine that includes specific times for work, exercise, and self-care.


While both willpower and discipline can be useful for building habits, they have different strengths and limitations.


Willpower is a finite resource that can be depleted over time, particularly if it is used excessively. For this reason, relying solely on willpower to build habits can be difficult in the long term.


Discipline, on the other hand, is a more sustainable approach to habit formation. By creating structure and routine, individuals can reduce the need for willpower and make positive behaviors more automatic. However, discipline can also be challenging to maintain, particularly if individuals are prone to procrastination or have difficulty sticking to a schedule.


As a coaching psychologist, you can help your clients to build habits by helping them to identify the strategies that work best for them. Some individuals may benefit from focusing on willpower, particularly if they are highly motivated to make a change and have a limited number of habits to build. Others may benefit more from a disciplined approach, particularly if they struggle with procrastination or have a more complex set of habits to build.


In building habits, your clients might find it useful to set clear goals, establish a regular routine, and track their progress over time. You might also want to help them to think about how they will gain ongoing support and feedback to stay motivated and stay on track as they work towards their goals.


By exploring the strengths and limitations of each willpower vs discipline with your clients, you can support them in building habits that are sustainable and meaningful over the long term.

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