I have this problem with library books. I love checking them out and I love reading them but I often forget to take them back. Sometimes after they are due and steadily accruing fines, I drive around with them in the car for a week before actually making it to the library. I tell myself I am just too busy to go, even though I can drive to the library in three minutes and can just deposit them in the hole in the wall which takes all of five seconds once I am there. I can manage to meet deadlines for 6 months or so but then always fall of the wagon and end up with overdue books, fines to pay and a horrible lurking feeling of guilt in my belly. I have had this problem since I became old enough to check my own books out of the library but lately I have been reflecting on exactly why I seem incapable of regularly returning my books on time.
It’s about willpower and I can see the same pattern emerging in several areas of my life. For a short time I can manage to stick to lots of positive habits. I exercise religiously, I eat healthfully and I meditate. I can stick to a purposeful budget for while, but when life gets busy and I get stressed it all falls apart. When I am under pressure, the first thing I do is lose my willpower. I lose the ability to stick to my positive habits and revert to not-so-positive habits like online shopping, chocolate for dinner and using my free time to just watch random TV instead of reading and then returning my library books.
This is not really a surpise because when I did some research, I found that psychologists think we only have a limited amount of willpower. When things get hard and we are balancing work, family life and a to-do list that seems a mile long, our willpower reserves get depleted and it is hard to stick to positive habits. That is why, now I am beginning to know myself better, I have decided that it’s time to give myself a break and acknowledge that I am doing the best that I can. I am sure that you are too.
There are seasons of life that are frenetic and intense, times when our willpower and energy reserves are drained by the stresses and strains of daily life. It is okay not to be perfect. Do what you can to get through those busy times. Take care of yourself as well as you can and know that you will come through the other side with restored willpower. If you don’t manage to make your exercise class, you eat a whole box of donuts or you don’t manage to take back your library books (!) probably the least helpful thing you can do for yourself is feel guilty about it because it will drain your willpower even further. Accept that you are doing the best you can and be kind to yourself, always.