Whether your goal is to start a business or get fit, common advice is that you should ‘Keep working’ and ‘Try harder’. Other recommendations are to ‘Never give up’ and that ‘You just need willpower’.
However, this kind of forced thinking doesn’t work for most people. In fact, the idea that you can and should force yourself to come up with more willpower to achieve your goals can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.
In this post, I’d like to share willpower myths that actually disempower you. Let’s dive into what they are because once we know what we’re dealing with, we can make changes that help us find the right path to our potential.
Willpower is limitless
Although it isn’t explicitly stated, most people think that willpower is something that can be summoned whenever needed.
But studies show that this isn’t true at all. We do have willpower, but it is limited.
When we use our willpower in everyday activities like reading and sorting emails delivered to our inboxes, planning groceries, and other everyday tasks, we have less willpower left at the end of the day.
So, when an emergency happens or we have to perform some other extra activity, we find ourselves procrastinating or giving up.
It’s important to recognize this feature of willpower. When you know that willpower is limited, you’ll use your mental powers more effectively.
When you have a difficult task to do on top of your regular work, you can:
- Invest in tools and devices like automation tools. For example, a voice-activated home assistant device to carry out tasks verbally. You can also use apps to shop, track your money, and do other things
- You can keep difficult tasks that need your full attention for the weekend when you’re relaxed
- And you can schedule your day by using time blocking so that your focus isn’t split throughout the day
Focusing on practical goals is important
When we set ourselves a challenging goal, we tend to focus on the outcome. We rely on measurable goals and objectives to work through.
Not only does this seem intuitive but virtually every personal development book and teacher tells you that you need clear goals.
And this is helpful to some degree. But when you already live a busy life and want to do something extraordinary like go to evening college or set up an online store, more goals and tasks mean more stress.
But this doesn’t mean that you can’t set big goals and do important things. Rather, what you should focus on is having a lofty, overarching goal that involves your higher thinking.
Simon Sinek expressed this well when he wrote his book Start With Why.
In your own life, start with a value-based reason for why you want to achieve the things you do.
I made running a fixture in my life because I wanted to be a good father, husband, and business owner. And I couldn’t do these things unless I stayed fit. Having a larger goal helped me work on exercising consistently to stay healthy.
You can boost willpower through mental training
Since willpower comes from the mind, we intuitively think that we need to exercise mentally to have more willpower. And this is true to some degree! But it’s not the whole picture.
In the book Willpower by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, they explain that willpower strengthens through small repeated activities.
If you want to develop the willpower to learn a second language when you come back from home, then try working on your posture. Sit up straight and walk with a good posture at all times. As strange as it seems, when you work on your posture, you actually build your willpower to do other things.
Other ways to boost your willpower through physical habits is to sit still for a fixed period of time, use your non-dominant hand for work, take the stairs all the time, and take cold showers.
When we make such challenging things everyday habits, our willpower becomes stronger and we can wield it better.
Another way that physical and physiological habits influence willpower is by providing the brain with energy. Our brains consume a large amount of glucose to run. When we use willpower in everyday life, we deplete glucose in our bodies.
So, having a healthy snack, drinking lots of water, sleeping well, and exercising all contribute to better brain functioning, and by extension create more willpower.
Back to you
When you cut through misconceptions that abound around willpower, you stop blaming yourself for not having enough of it. Because virtually no one has enough willpower to sustainably achieve a number of goals on a daily basis.
I’ve shared some important myths about willpower and also explained how willpower really works.
Focus on lifestyle changes and using your time well to be more productive. Through small steps and regular work, you’ll grow in a way that’s enjoyable and meaningful.