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Last Updated on February 28, 2018

Willpower Has Been Overrated, This Is What You Need Instead To Succeed

Willpower Has Been Overrated, This Is What You Need Instead To Succeed

Willpower can be described as the ability to control or reject desires to indulge in harmful and useless habits. It also allows people to arrive at decisions and then follow them through with perseverance until success has been achieved. Additionally, willpower can help us delay gratification, which as humans, we’re hard-wired to want instantly.

To give you a concrete example of willpower, just think of school. Students need willpower to self-control themselves to maintain attention in class, and to avoid breaking school rules in order to be seen as a good student.

    In our modern age, willpower has become known as an important element in success. By has it always been this way?

    How We Came to Believe That Willpower Leads to Success

      In ancient times we didn’t need willpower, instead, we followed our natural instincts to survive.

      However, as civilization evolved, humans wanted to put things in order. We started to create rules for people to follow. And only by following these rules could someone get what they want, and survive in a modern society. Because of these rules, we started to make self-discipline a virtue.

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      In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a marshmallow experiment proved willpower was the key to success.[1] The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a series of studies on delayed gratification led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University. The study was simple but revealing. It tested children on a choice between the following rewards:

      1. Immediately being able to eat a marshmallow.
      2. Waiting 20 minutes and then being able to eat two marshmallows.

      The results of the study were fascinating. Children who were able to wait for the double reward, typically fared better in later life than those children who took the instant gratification route.

      Because of this famous study, more emphasis began to be put on the benefits of strengthening willpower.

      Nowadays, it’s fair to say that willpower controls a lot of what we do – as we see it as something critical to reaching goals and achieving things. And it’s not just about I want power, but also about I will, and I won’t.[2]

      Willpower training has also become big business. There’s countless workshops, online seminars as well as best-selling books such as Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength and The Willpower Instinct.

      Try searching for “willpower boost” on Google, and you’ll find thousands of results for articles that purport to show you the ways to do it.

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      The Limited Power of Willpower

        However, most people’s willpower remains weak. Some of the reasons for this are:

        • Emotions – which can affect our motivation levels.
        • Our physical condition – are you getting enough sleep? (For example.)
        • Previous failures – repeating these in our minds kills our willpower.[3]

        On top of the above issues, you may have noticed that even when you have an abundance of willpower, it has its limits. Every day, in one form or another, you exert willpower. For instance, if you resist eating a tasty piece of chocolate cake offered to you, then you’ve had to use emotional and mental power.

        Willpower is similar to a muscle. If we overuse it, we get tired. In other words, willpower is a limited resource.[4]

        How to Succeed with Limited Willpower

        Once you realize that willpower has its limits, then the key thing to know is that you must follow a system to reach your goals and dreams. Put systems first, and willpower second.

        Willpower is close to useless, if you do not allow it to work alongside a personal success system.

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        What is this system that I refer to? It’s a system that creates the right conditions in your mind and environment that helps make your success a surefire outcome. With this type of system in place, willpower will simply be an extra bonus in helping you to reach success. But to be clear, with the right system, even if your willpower fails, you’ll still keep on the road to success and achievement. These are the essential steps to build your own success system:

              1. Create an environment that is conducive to success

              Think for a moment about willpower. On its own, it doesn’t place any emphasis on changing your environment, instead, it puts its focus on overcoming your environment. It’s no wonder then, when the limited willpower begins to fail, people succumb to environmental influences – despite their best efforts to resist.

              As human beings, we are consciously and unconsciously influenced by what’s around us. These could be the news we read, the stories our friends tell us, and even the influence our home has on us.

              The secret is to, where possible, create an environment that helps (not hinders) the reaching of your goals. For example, if you want to spot binge eating snacks, give away all your snacks to others, and make sure you can’t reach any kind of snacks at your workplace or home.

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              Your environment can also be used to directly support your goals. For instance, if you want to be a professional artist, surround yourself with professional artists.

              2. Know what makes you happy

              By knowing what makes you happy, you’ll also reveal what motivates you. This is important.

              Take a look around at others, or delve into your past, and you will find that willpower falters when people encounter failure or come across negative events. This clearly demonstrates that willpower is affected by external factors, thus making it unreliable.

              Knowing what makes you happy is the perfect way to stay motivated to reach your goals – even when your willpower crumbles. This can be through rewarding yourself by watching a great movie (once you’ve achieved a goal milestone), or by simply enjoying the inner bliss you receive when walking on the pathway that keeps you happy, motivated and successful.

              Replace Your Old Beliefs – and Find New Success

              Willpower is not the be all and end all we’ve been taught to believe. While it’s certainly a component of success, it’s nowhere near as important as all the self-help gurus claim.

              As I’ve discussed above, having a system and a goal, are much more powerful factors in success than willpower.

              So, now you know the truth about success, take the steps I’ve suggested, and begin achieving more than you ever thought possible. And if you need any further motivation to help you on your way, check out the Lifehack article Make Good Habits Stick Easily With Productive—the Habit Tracker.

              Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

              Reference

              More by this author

              Leon Ho

              Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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              Last Updated on September 17, 2018

              What Is Your Destiny in Life? How to Mindfully Achieve Your Purpose

              What Is Your Destiny in Life? How to Mindfully Achieve Your Purpose

              At several points in our lives, we tend to ask– if not question, what is our destiny in life and the truth about why we’re living.

              On days of frustration, it’s more of questioning why we haven’t figured it all out. On days of reflection, it’s more of what serves us. On the good days, you feel that purpose in your bones. And on the bad days, you might feel no purpose at all.

              Here’s the deal:

              How do you define purpose?

              Webster’s dictionary defines it as “something set up as an object or end to be.”

              “End to be” almost sounds too predestined – that our “purpose” is out of our control because at the end of the day we’ll truly end up at our truest destination, and life is just trying to figure out what that is along the way.

              What if our life’s purpose is to be present here on earth because your life’s mission is determining what serves us and what we’re willing to contribute?

              What is your destiny in life?

              I once asked a friend what his fear in life was. He feared hurting people, and he also fears never amounting to be of significance to anyone in his relationships – friendships, romantically, and as a colleague. It got to the point where he stayed in unfulfilled romantic relationships because breaking up would mean it would make him the antagonist in her story.

              They say we meet 80,000 people in our lifetime and that is if we live to be 78-years-old.[1] From the moment you were born to this very exact moment you are now reading this article, we are an accumulation of upbringings, experiences, moments, tragedies, and the influences of the people we have met.

              The death of someone impacts us deeply because of the connection we had shared with that person. We cheer for our home team during the World Cup because of the pride we have for our country. We attend weddings and anniversaries to celebrate love and it is the the love we have for our friends and the love for our partner.

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              Life’s purpose is more about the connection we make with others and having that chance to live 80,000 different lives. It’s a chance to deepen our self-awareness, and truly understand what resonates with our inner self.

              I then looked at my friend and asked him this:

              “Out of the 80,000 people you have met and will continue to meet, do you truly believe you won’t inspire anyone at all? Out of the 80,000 that will come in and out of your life, could you say you won’t hurt any of them or be hurt by any of them?”

              It’s literally impossible.

              Sometimes we meet people who inspire us greatly, who shift our lives and in return, we shift theirs; they are a makeup of their own 80,000 people. While other times, we meet people who have impacted us negatively; they too are a makeup of their own 80,000 people.

              The bottom line is:

              Our life’s purpose is to connect with others and by doing so, our life’s mission becomes clearer.

              The truth about our mission

              Is our mission always clear? Probably not.

              Your life’s mission is probably not the same as it was when you were 20, or even the same as it was a year ago. It could have changed from “wanting to become a nurse so I can help the elderly” to “wanting to open a 24-hour daycare center to help parents who work graveyard shifts.”

              The commonality here is the want to help people. The how and what may change, but the why is what remains.

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              As our lives continue to go through waves, it’s only natural for our values to change along with those waves.

              The question to ask here is:

              In midst of the chaos and whirlwind of events  we call life, what continues to stand still after all these years?

              Our life’s mission comes down to that constant voice that repeatedly sends signals and stirs that pot of emotions, excitement, and ambition within us. Although it may seem unclear, it’s the one thing that never changes:

              • Have you always loved the art of storytelling because it connects strangers?
              • Have you always loved making handcrafted jewelry because it drives your creativity?
              • Have you always been drawn to cooking because it keeps you in control of what you are putting in your body?

              How to achieve your destiny

              Think of your life mission as an anchor. Now it’s time to look into how to harness that anchor and conquer your destiny.

              1. Decide – Your mind is the captain

              Imagine your mind as the captain of the ship and the anchor is your life’s mission. Your ship is currently sitting at a standstill point in life with four possible directions: north, east, west, and south. As easy as it is to set sail, it’s harder when the destination may seem unclear.

              The first step is always deciding.

              Sometimes we stay at this standstill moment because we’re afraid of sailing towards the wrong direction.

              Maybe we’ve done it one too many times in the past, and that the fear has since stayed. So, we end up being content with sitting comfortably in our ship because there are no waves, no currents, just calmness that surrounds us. But there is no adventure, and after a while the calm waves seem almost lonesome.

              You will never fail because look at your ship at this exact moment — It’s out on the waters, it’s the result of all the small and large decisions you’ve been making throughout life. You have sailed your ship out to sea before, and you can do it again. Don’t over think it and be accountable for youself to decide.

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              Regardless of the direction you do decide to take, you will still continue to meet a handful of people to add into your 80,000; with that, a chance to gain additional experiences, knowledge, inspirations, and lessons to redefine our life’s mission. The thing is, you have to sail somewhere.

              The moment you sail and live your life’s purpose by meeting people on this journey, you will meet people who will challenge your life’s mission. Regardless of whatever tangible action you decide to take, you must learn to trust our anchor.

              As long as you have your anchor, it will hold you and remind you of what truly moves you. It’s that one constant thing to guide you when you are at your next standstill.

              2. Do – Your body is the ship

              As your mind continues to steer, your body is the ship that sails; it gets you to the destination your mind is trying to go. To actively achieve your life’s mission, you must do the following step.

              The second step is to do and keep doing.

              Whatever it may be, just do. If it’s a book you’ve been wanting to write for years, it’s time to write. If it’s a 5k run you’ve been putting aside because work is too hectic, it’s time to train. If it’s to finally start that business, but finances are always tight, it’s time to try.

              Complacency isn’t a fun place – neither is an uncrossed list of things you’ve been wanting to do that probably all ties in with your mission.

              Once you start, everything will fall into place. Trust the anchor to guide you and give you that nudge when something isn’t working anymore. As we continue to interact with others and grow physically and mindfully, our ideas and projects – sometimes careers and ideal relationships can change with them.

              Listen to that anchor, because that anchor is always connected to your life’s mission.

              3. Reflect – Looking beyond the horizon

              Now it’s time to take charge of your destiny. There’s power to making a decision but there’s greater power in putting those decisions into action. Afterwards, it’s time to reflect.

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              Your mind is the captain – calling all the shots, making the choices and deciding which waves to ride over and which waves to steer clear from. It’s also the one thing that propels you forward, and on some days, it can be your best companion, while on other days, your worst enemy.

              Your body is the ship – it puts all those decisions into action. It takes you to those job interviews, it types out the words onto a keyboard and into a working manuscript, it also gets your heart pumping during workouts. Your body is the action taker.

              Your anchor is your spirit – your anchor is your current reminder. It will often ask you if things continue to resonate with you. It’s your gut, it’s your instinct, and it’s the one thing that stays true to you. Listening to it will give you a clearer understanding of your mission, but only if you live your life’s purpose.

              Meet people, ask them questions, and see what stirs the anchor within you. The answer will always lie there, and the anchor is what leads you to your destiny.

              Final thoughts

              As humans, our one life has been a string of moments created, enjoyed, and experienced with others and that alone makes the world turn.

              Our purpose is to be present on this earth, but our mission is to tap into our calling and learn how to give back. It’s listening to that anchor that has stayed with us our whole lives.

              By mindfully becoming aware and actively doing the things that call to us, we begin to steer our ship towards passionate projects, people, and places that stay true to our inner compass.

              Featured photo credit: S A R A H ✗ S H A R P via unsplash.com

              Reference

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