Lady Willpower, it’s now or never (Gary Puckett and the Union Gap)Do a quick Google search for quotes about willpower and you will find plenty of memes telling us to be strong, to work our willpower muscles, admonishing us that the only thing standing between us and our goals is willpower.
But as I noted in my first post of 2018, willpower is mostly about resisting the temptations of the present in order gain the value of the future. And the truth is, willpower fades over time. We find ourselves struggling with our own minds. This often leads to failure, sometimes in spectacular fashion. Then we label ourselves as weak. Thus begins a cascade of negative thoughts that have no hope of resulting in positive outcomes.
As Benjamin P. Hardy writes in an excerpt from his upcoming book Willpower Doesn’t Work, the need to exert willpower over something is an indication of an internal conflict. If you are completely resolved and comfortable with your decision to, say, get to the gym 5 days a week, it really shouldn’t require any willpower to do that.
“Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.” (Michael Jordan)
So, if willpower doesn’t work, what works? I’ll tell you.
Commitment, not willpower
When you are truly committed to something, there is no need to rely on willpower, because you no longer have doubt about whether you can achieve your goal.
Hardy discusses that one key to commitment is investment. But it has to be a meaningful investment.Signing a contract for a gym membership may seem like an investment, so why does it still take willpower to get there every day? It’s because it’s not really much of an investment. A $50 or $60 per month debit from your bank account isn’t really that much for most people. And in fact, those relatively low membership fees are key to the business model of most gyms. They know it’s not really all that much money, so it’s probably going to get a lot of traffic through the door, but it’s not going to do much to fuel your commitment to show up. If everyone who signed a contract with a neighborhood gym actually showed up every day, there would be lines out the door waiting to use the equipment. In fact, statistics show that 67% of people with gym memberships never use them.
“If you want lasting change, you have to give up this idea of just trying something, and you have to commit yourself to mastery. Because your life is not controlled by what you do some of the time, but by what you do consistently.” (Tony Robbins)
What else works?
Creating an environment for success
In his book Team of Teams, Gen. Stanley McChrystal writes that a gardener creates the environment for success by doing the planting, fertilizing, care, and feeding of a garden, so that in the end, the plants grow themselves.
So, how do you do that?Start by getting sane. We’ve all heard the saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.” If what you’ve been doing up to now hasn’t worked, it’s time to toss it behind you and walk away.
Something else you should walk away from: People who do not support you in reaching your goals. Now, I’m not suggesting divorce or quitting your job or anything drastic. When I say “walk away,” it can be something you do mentally. If you’re trying to lose weight, you pre-program yourself to say “No, thank you,” when Aunt Margaret insists that “one little piece of cake won’t hurt.” Don’t give reasons, don’t get into an argument. Just say no. It’s easier than you think and it’s a big part of being committed. Once you decide you’re going to say no, don’t look back.
On the other hand, you may find that you need to physically walk away from certain people. If you’ve vowed to stop smoking or drinking, then attendance at Friday poker night, where people are smoking and drinking, may be something you need to replace. If you’re truly committed to getting healthy, perhaps going to the gym on Friday poker night is a better choice.
No one said it would be easy
For most of us, getting married is something we view as a lifelong commitment. We’re all in, for better or for worse. And sometimes the “worse” is really bad. The things that can happen over the course of a marriage can truly test our commitment at times. But if we are truly committed, we stick it out (unless doing so is harmful to ourselves or our children). If you rely on willpower to keep from cheating, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to end up cheating. If you’re committed, you’re invested, the answer is as simple as saying “No, thank you” to Aunt Mary’s cake.
I’m committing to myself this year. I’m committed to getting healthy so I can dance at my granddaughter’s wedding and I’m committed to achieving my financial goals to allow me to live my best life.
What are you committed to?