Why good habits improve willpower
I get asked a lot about how to implement specific aspects of Humanism, like critical thinking or being compassionate to obnoxious people. What I always tell people is that first, no one thinks critically perfectly and no one’s first emotional response to a jerk is compassion.
Critical thinking and compassion are things you have to actively practice. And the more you practice, the easier it gets. It becomes a habit. You still aren’t perfect, but it becomes easier to do these important tasks.
This is what habit formation does. It makes things, habitual and as a result, you have to think less about them. But according to research, wonderfully compiled by the bufferapp blog (see: http://blog.bufferapp.com/what-the-research-on-habit-formation-reveals-about-willpower-and-overall-well-being) it turns out that developing good habits positively impacts your will power as well.
The more you practice and make something positive a habit, the more you can resist temptations that require active willpower to achieve. In other words, the more you practice something like critical thinking, the more self-control you will have in other areas of your life. In the studies, people who made exercise a habit also reported less stress, better relationships, more patience with difficult people, less spending on their credit cards and more.
The lesson is that you don’t have to start off with big life changing things. Start small and make one positive change in your life and make it a habit. You will soon find that your increased mastering of this one thing helps you exert more self-control in other areas of your life and this increase in willpower will help you make further changes.