Willpower – ask 10 people about willpower and you’ll get answers like: “it’s that special thing that allows some people to just quit smoking, lose weight, or get rich…some people have it and some don’t…,” or “It’s one of those things that comes and goes…sometimes I have it, other times I don’t.”
Is any of that true? Is it some kind of a genetic thing that some people are just born with more of than others? Or is it something that comes and goes with the amount of hard core discipline one has?
And even if you have it, in whatever quantity, does it really work to get us the results we want? Why does it seem to work for some and not for others…?
As science and medicine learn more and more about our genetics and the pre-determined map that makes us who we are, other research shows us that our behaviors and actions are more elastic than what genetics may suggest. We have enormous power to change outcomes in our lives, if we know how to do it. And willpower is like the muscle that helps us do it, getting stronger the more we exercise it.
Common beliefs among experts in the field of willpower and self-discipline say that several things are required to really have the willpower to take control of our lives, from how we look to how we feel to what we achieve. The first of these is intention. What is the eventual goal / outcome / result you intend to achieve? A big part of this is visualization – not just saying it and agreeing with yourself that that’s what you want, but deeply internalizing & seeing the desired outcome play out and the result at the end. If it’s a physical change, that means seeing you as you want to be…if it’s an emotional or relationship change it’s repeatedly (daily) visualizing how you want it to be or happen. An abundance of good research says the more you do this, the more you actually create the outcome you’re visualizing! Successful people almost always have daily ritual(s) where they visualize their goal or target.
The second step is self-monitoring, or simply watching yourself as if from an outsider’s viewpoint, like a coach or mentor. This allows you to better see your path towards your goal and any deviations that might occur along the way. It’s like your GPS on a road trip – if you get off-course it just “re-routes,” but never deviates away from the end target. By the way, this is where an actual partner or coach can help a lot.
Lastly, action is required-duh… This is the part we all see – the results of your actions. If you ask 50 people in a room to take of their clothes it won’t be hard to tell who has regular workout rituals and who doesn’t. But before we give all the credit to our actions, it’s important to see where those actions came from. Strong roots lead to strong trees. And we all know where strength comes from – exercise!
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