If you want to make permanent changes in your life, don’t rely on your willpower.
Whether you want to set up a new business, get fitter, be happier, write a book or improve your relationships – willpower won’t help with any of these things.
Personal success and achievement are best approached as though you’re overcoming addiction. Because, quite literally, when you’re trying to change something, that’s what you’re doing. As humans, we all have addictions.
I openly admit to being addicted to social media, my current diet, my single lifestyle and my comfort zone. I’m addicted to my current belief system. I’m addicted to the behaviors that contradict my goals.
We’re all addicted. Our addictions are stopping us from achieving what we want.
It you want to make change in your life, willpower is not going to help you. Willpower is actually what’s holding you back.
Willpower is for people who are uncertain about what they want to do with their lives
If you need to exert willpower to achieve what you want, there’s an internal conflict happening inside you.
You want to eat the candy bar. Yet you want to get healthier.
Your tongue is salivating at the thought of eating that chocolate. What do you do?
Are you going to be strong and resist? Or will you crumble and devour the candy bar?
According to research, willpower is like a muscle. It’s a finite resource that depletes with use. By the end of a strenuous day when you’ve been forced to exert willpower – when you’ve had to stop yourself from eating that candy bar a hundred times over – your willpower is exhausted. You are exhausted.
The fact that your willpower is required, making you continually exhausted, stems from causes:
- You don’t know what you want, creating internal conflictions.
- You haven’t actually committed to creating conditions in your life that help you achieve your goals.
What do you really want?
According to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
If you continually need to exert willpower, you haven’t actually made a decision about what you want. Once you make a decision, the internal conflict is over.
Michael Jordan once said:
“Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.”
After you have decided what you want, there is no more need to think about it. The decision has been made.
Until you make that decision, willpower will always be needed. Back to square one.
Are you committed?
What does commitment mean? How do you know if you’re committed?
When I quit my PhD to start Ideapod, it required commitment. But it didn’t require any effort. The decision was made long before.
Well before I ventured out full time to create a place for people to connect through ideas, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I researched what it meant to incorporate a company, raise capital and hire developers. I spoke to potential users of Ideapod to get feedback and incorporate this into the design process. I found advisers who could help me on the journey.
In my mind, even before I quit the PhD, I was already an entrepreneur. The day I actually quit was no different to the day before.
It was the same when I decided to run a marathon. Six months before, I made the decision. It didn’t require willpower on the day of the marathon. I had put in place a training regime that resulted in being able to run the full 26 miles on the actual day.
When you’re committed, you’ll build up training regimes and work practices that are aligned with your goals.
Creating the conditions to make success inevitable
Success is the result of a process.
One of the most important components of becoming successful comes from transforming your environment.
This is why having willpower to achieve success is misplaced. When you’re relying on willpower, you’re trying to overcome your current environment. You’re fighting against yourself.
Eventually you’ll succumb to the fight. You’ll become your own worst enemy.
Our environment is always more powerful than our internal resolve. We always end up being products of our environment.
What matters most is consciously designing an environment that facilitates you achieving your goals. If you’re truly committed to something, this will be your focus.
If you’re trying to stop the use of recreational drugs, you’ll stop being around people that do drugs and stop going to parties where everyone’s doing it. You’ll never need to say no to drugs because you won’t allow yourself to be exposed to them in the first place.
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you’ll surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and orient your lifestyle around the goals you want to achieve.
We naturally adapt to our environments. Conscious evolution involves purposefully surrounding ourselves with people that are reflections of who we want to become and creating environments that are conducive to what we want to achieve.
Everything in life is natural and organic, including our ability to consciously design our environment. If you want to create change in your life, consciously change your environment and stop relying on your willpower.
Osho once said, “positive thinking is terrible advice.”
When you force yourself to think positively, you’re fighting against yourself. Instead, it’s much better to direct your ability to make decisions towards consciously designing your life.
Instead of focusing on yourself, relying on willpower, focus on your environment.
Your environment, and the people who are in it, is the clearest indicator of the life you’ll live.