Our Staff Development Spotlight this week is on our operations director- the fearless leader of the call center, the one and only Eric Schurke! Eric has been a member of the VoiceNation team since we were based out of a tiny garage in Georgia. He’s been with us through both struggle and growth, and has always remained an approachable and encouraging leader. He is also one of the most active and health conscious people on our team, so when we heard that Eric was teaching our Staff Development on the topic of willpower, we knew we were in for a treat.
We often mistaken willpower as something that you either possess or you don’t. Or we even assume that willpower is something that can be taught much like kids learn to do math in school. Yet studies show that willpower is much more like a muscle to be exercised than simply a skill.
As we continue diving into Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, we have learned that the brain is always looking for ways to save energy. In order to do this, the brain puts many of our daily routines, thought processes, and even physical movement on autopilot. These are your habits. As bad habits form and become more consistent, it becomes harder to fight the cravings that trigger our routines. This is where your willpower – self discipline to resist your bad urges and to make sound decisions – comes in to play.
The front portion of your brain (the prefrontal cortex) is the part that controls things like decision-making and regulating behavior. This is where your willpower lives and breathes. Much like the muscles in your arms and legs, your willpower gets tired the harder it works. When you start your day in rush hour traffic, spend the afternoon on the phone with angry callers, and make the rush hour drive back home, your willpower doesn’t have much left to convince you to skip the fast food and go for a run. Your prefrontal cortex needs to be taken care of in order to help you make sound decisions.
So what can we do to take care of or brain and exercise our willpower? It all comes down to what you eat.
Your brain runs on glucose. As you use up glucose throughout the day, your ability to control your thoughts, feelings, and actions weakens. With glucose being the fuel to your willpower, running on empty will leave you susceptible to temptation and bad decisions – the triggers to your bad habits. This is why it is so important to eat foods that contain glucose (granola, whole wheat pasta, fruits, veggies) instead of fructose (processed sugar).
“Your prefrontal cortex needs to be taken care of in order to help you make sound decisions.”
So as you strive to create good habits to replace the poor ones, be sure to remember the most important muscle – your willpower. When you get home from a rough day and fall into past cravings, don’t confuse laziness for mental exhaustion. It is important to take care of your willpower throughout each day in order to give yourself the energy to change those habits that you have been working so hard to change. Plan ahead by making meals that will feed your brain the energy that it needs to keep going throughout even the most stressful days. Let your habits built up your willpower so that your willpower can help create healthy habits!
Thanks for such an inspiring lesson Eric! We’ve got so much more to learn as we continue to discuss habits in the weeks to come. Be sure to check back in to learn with us!