Want, Will, Won’t

It’s a common misconception among people that you can force someone to make a change.   Even many trainers, especially new ones, believe that they can train anyone regardless of their situation or mindset.  Well, this just isn’t the case.  Someone has to be ready for change or at least open to it before they can start on an intensive program or lifestyle overhaul (Check out my post on motivation and the Transtheoretical Model).  You hear it all the time “Olympic athletes do (insert supplement or exercise), so why wouldn’t we”.   My answer to this statement is always… because you’re not an olympic athlete.  The reality is that your lifestyle may not permit you to behave like an olympic athlete, nor does it have to unless you have plans to become an Olympic athlete in the near future.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t all try to live healthier lifestyles but, really, we aren’t olympic or professional caliber athletes.  It’s time to be realistic and accept that making small changes that can be sustained will lead to a healthier you.

From here it’s a good time to make a Want, Will and Won’t list.  This is a concept first introduced to me from Precision Nutrition.  It is a very simple but effective concept.  Without even knowing much about the Transtheoretical Model for change you can get a clear picture of how ready you are for change.  Start by making a list of things that you want – as in what do you want to accomplish.  Next, you will make a list of things that you are willing to do and a list of what you will not do.  Consider some actions and decide “Ya, ok, I’m confident that I can do that” or “No thanks, bud”.  At this point you can look at your list of wants and decide if your list of wills and will-nots match up.  It is not uncommon for them not to and if this is the case either the wants should change to accommodate your will and won’t lists or if your want list is most important then your will list may have to change.  At this point you need to decide what exactly your priorities are and decide what sacrifices are worth making.  This is what I mean by you can’t force someone to change.  If the three lists don’t all match up then you will be stuck spinning your wheels, frustrated at your lack of progress.  If you or someone you are trying to help aren’t willing to turn a won’t into a will or adjust the wants then not much is going to change.

Taking the time to write these three lists can save a lot of frustration down the road from wrestling back and forth with priorities.  It can also help save you from some big let-downs due to not clearly understanding what you are and aren’t willing to do.  It’s a little bit of work for a big payoff in the end.  It is also beneficial to write these lists every so often to help re-evaluate your priorities whenever you are thinking of making a new change.

This list is similar to a good-better-best practice list.  For example, when trying to lose some extra body fat it might be best practice to stop eating ice cream all-together but I might include that in my WON’T list.  (Give up ice-cream? Nope).  However, I might be ok with eating ice cream once per week, which might be a better practice than every day.  On the other hand, I might still want to eat it whenever I want, which may not be every day but hey, it’s delicious and I want the option so my good (or possibly better) practice might be to tighten up the slack on my nutrition throughout the day and week, giving me the option to eat ice cream should the opportunity come up.

WANT    -> To lose some extra body fat by creating a caloric deficit

WILL -> Become slightly more strict with daily nutrition habits/meal preparation to create a caloric deficit

WON’T -> Give up eating ice cream to create a caloric deficit


As you can see, both options will result in a similar outcome and in this case there is a manageable option to achieve that result, allowing me to stay on track and continue to see success.

Versus a list that that does not match up well and would need some adjustments.

WANT -> To lose some extra body fat by creating a caloric deficit

WILL -> Maintain eating habits without creating a daily caloric deficit

WON’T -> Give up eating ice cream to create a caloric deficit


Also, I am able to quantify my love for ice cream.  All valuable information that can be attained from making this list.

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