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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 January 9, 2019

              7 Signs You’re Ready to Change Your Life (And What to Do Next)

              7 Signs You’re Ready to Change Your Life (And What to Do Next)

              Changing your life can be both scary and exciting, but more than anything it’s necessary to grow. Most people come to a point one day where they have to make a change in their life to either grow personally or professionally, but it’s hard to figure out when you’re ready to make that change.

              So how do you know when it’s time that you’re ready to change your life?

              The truth is there is at least one sign in front of you that you have been ignoring or not even noticing. This article will take you through 7 signs that shows you that you’re ready to take that next step.

              1. Your Motivation Is Gone

              Humans all have something that makes them tick. A goal that makes them wake up at 5am even though they would love to sleep in late. A drive that makes them decline social events, because their jobs need them to stay all night, or maybe it’s the opposite and you attend social events to please the ones close to you.

              It comes from your motivation to succeed either professionally or personally, but once the drive is missing, then you can’t keep going and you will lose your motivation.

              If you suddenly can’t find that drive inside you once had, then it can be a sign. It can be your needs or wants that have changed. The important thing is that if you don’t feel the same motivation any longer, then it’s time to do something about it.

              We’ve been taught to keep going even when it gets tough, but it’s okay to change and redefine yourself. It’s not about giving up. It’s about stopping up and revaluate whether you still want the same things in life.

              Sometimes you may find out you still want the same time, but the way you’re going about it isn’t working for you.

              Chris Sacca, an American venture investor, and entrepreneur, bought a cabin in Tahoe’s less-expensive neighbour and moved to the prime skiing and hiking country when he felt his motivation sliding away. He still had the same goals, but described a need for a change in his life to get back the right mind-set:[1]

              ”I wanted to have the time to focus, to learn the things I wanted to learn, to build what I wanted to build, and to really invest in relationships that I wanted to grow, rather than just doing a day of coffee after coffee after coffee.”

              If you still want the same things, then do what Chris Sacca did and change your daily routine. If you want new things, then maybe it’s time to quit your job, or make a change in your personal life.

              It doesn’t mean that you have failed. It simply means you are ready to focus on what matters: You.

              Find your passion and motivation back to live a better life with these tips:

              Want to Know What Truly Motivates You, and How to Always Stay Motivated?

              2. You’re Unhappy at Least Once a Day Every Day

              We tend to ignore unhappiness because it’s normal to get upset or feel a bit down. It’s true. It is normal, but if you feel unhappy every day and usually without even knowing exactly why – it’s a sign.

              A task, a job or a relationship can be both giving and draining — most often both. While we have to accept a certain struggle, we don’t have to accept being unhappy.

              Here’s a little test you can do easily:

              Take a look at what you do every day, and take a look at the things you have assigned yourself. How many of these things do you do for yourself? And how many do you do to please someone else?

              Once and a while, we need to take a step back and look at our to-do list. Are you dealing with a to-do list of others, or your own to-do list? There is a difference.

              This can easily be misunderstood, but you need to remember it’s not about being selfish or lazy. If you’re unhappy on a daily basis, then you can’t make other people happy in the long run either.

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              If you’re unhappy every day, then it’s time to recognize it as a sign that you’re doing something wrong in your life when it comes to your own happiness. It might have seemed right before, but it’s clearly not doing you any good anymore. You’re ready for a change.

              You can learn how to be happy again from this article:

              How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

              3. The People Around You Are Changing

              The grass is far from always greener on the other side of the street (at least most of the time), and while we shouldn’t compare ourselves to the people around us on a daily basis, it’s okay to take a look once a while.

              The people you surround yourself with often reflect back on yourself. If you’re going through a phase where most of your friends have been going out all the time, and then they suddenly start to focus on work and family, it might be a sign.

              This by no means imply you should change your life if you’re still feeling fulfilled and good about it. But if you turn your head and start noticing a change around you and it makes you rethink things, it’s probably a sign of you being ready to change as well.

              4. You’re Bored

              A healthy life shouldn’t be all fun and games, but if you’re starting to feel bored on a daily basis, then it could be a sign. There’s a difference between waking up on a Sunday and not knowing what to do, and waking up every day and feel bored.

              Maybe you don’t feel challenged in your job any longer, or your normal idea of fun is no longer giving you the enjoyment it once did before.

              Take the time to check with yourself. Are you just bored? Or do you need something more in your life?

              Humans are run by habits and routines, which makes it tough to change them. It also makes us stay in bad situations much longer than needed.

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              It’s always hard in the beginning but you can do it! Take a leap of faith and change your life.

              5. You’re Stressed

              Stress is probably one of the most common signs that you’re in need of a change, but it can also be one of the signs that can be the hardest to react upon. Because when you’re stressed, you automatically feel anxious about making a change.

              It can be hard to deal with stress, but luckily there are many different types of solutions to deal with it. It often comes down to trying different ways and figuring out what works for you.

              Tim Ferriss notices that:[2]

              “More than 80% of the world-class performers I’ve interviewed have some form of daily mediation or mindfulness practice.”

              Take a look at this to find what’s best for you to relieve stress:

              The Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Stress

              But sometimes all you need to do is to figure out what is stressing you out and whether it’s worth it. If the stress comes down to being a sign, then you need to accept it and create a change in your life, because you’re clearly ready.

              6. You’re Scared

              Everybody lives with fears. They’re afraid of losing someone. They’re afraid of losing their job. They’re afraid of making the wrong decisions. They’re afraid of a lot of things because life is pretty scary.

              The trick is to recognize whether the fear drives you or brings you down. It’s okay to be scared, but it’s not okay to live in constant fear.

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              If you’re scared about a specific thing or just feel anxious on a daily basis, it’s time to get a better understanding of where it comes from and also see it as a sign.

              When you’re already scared, it can be tough to consider making a change in your life, but look past the fear and know that you can choose to stay in this state of mind or work through it.

              Try to visualize a future where the fear is no longer present and use it as a tool to make the hard decision now and change your life for the better.

              This guide written by the author of Fight the Fear – How to Beat Your Negative Mindset and Win in Life will help you conquer your fears:

              How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

              7. There’s No Stimulation in Your Life

              Humans need stimulation in their daily lives because we will feel scared, stressed and unhappy at times. If you can tell that you no longer have that stimulation in your life, then it’s a sign that you’re ready for a change.

              What drove you in the past or got your heart pounding faster once might not do the same for you anymore. Before you get to the previous mentioned state of minds, you can get ahead of things and recognize this lack of stimulation as soon as possible as a sign.

              The Bottom Line

              All changes are hard and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but we need to start seeing change as a positive rather than (as we often do at first) a negative. Changing your life can be tough, but it’s worth it.

              Once you decided to change your life it won’t be easy in the beginning. Try to use a phrase Chris Sacca used when he was going through the same:[3]

              ”I had a phrase I kept repeating in my head over and over again, which was, ‘Tonight, I will be in by bed…”

              This will help you remember whatever you’re feeling right now is temporary. But if you don’t find the courage to make a change, then the negative feelings and emotions you’re dealing with won’t be.

              Featured photo credit: Joshua Ness via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1]Tim Ferriss: Tools of Titans, page 165
              [2]Tim Ferriss: Tools of Titans, page 149
              [3]Tim Ferriss: Tools of Titans, Page 167

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