Willpower is often overrated and misused. Yet, it is a powerful gift that can help us effect change and set ourselves up for success if used appropriately. The key is using it effectively.
In order to use willpower accurately, we need to answer this question: What role does our willpower play in the process of bringing about a change we want to see?
The Will is essential in helping us initiate a change and initially commit to it. After that, it soon runs out of gas. The Will is not designed to be effective at sustaining change. It is not very good at dealing with the challenges that come with sustaining a change we’ve started. For example, it is not good at resisting the continuous streams of temptations that often come our way trying to get us to fall off the bandwagon.
Understanding the limitations of willpower means that instead of trying to force our willpower to try to sustain change when it’s not able to do so, we will look for other tools that work in tandem with our willpower to help us achieve the change we seek.
That’s where changing the environment and procuring support from others becomes helpful. That’s also where modifying your behavior and your environment to reduce or remove sources of temptation comes in.
For example, on New Year’s Day, your willpower may help you to make a commitment that you will eat a healthy diet and exercise for the rest of the year. Perhaps this may be as part of your New Year’s resolution. However, left to the Will alone, you will soon fall off the bandwagon. To help the Will, and increase your chances of success, you need to make some changes to your life such as:
- You get a motivated accountability partner who will exercise with you and hold you accountable to keeping your promise.
- You vary the type of exercises that you do to reduce boredom.
- You only buy and stock healthy foods and clear your house of all junk foods. You make sure everything at home is healthy.
- You tell your coworkers what you are trying to do and ask them to help you develop a healthy lifestyle.
- You schedule time for exercise on your calendar so that you won’t forget.
- You learn new eating habits that will enable you to eat slowly and feel full without overeating.
- You get a fitness coach or trainer, if you can afford it.
Taking steps like those mentioned above will tremendously increase your chances of success. This principle of modifying your environment and yourself to support the change you are trying to accomplish works for everything you want to change, not just getting healthier. Willpower has its place. Willpower is necessary, but not sufficient to effective change.
What has been your experience with Willpower?