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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

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

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

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              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

              A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

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              Last Updated on July 21, 2021

              17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

              17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd
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              If you are like most people, you probably have big goals and dreams that you would like to succeed in — you want to be the top in your career, live a healthy lifestyle, or flourish in your relationships.

              Everyone dreams of a positive future, but most people don’t realize the secret to a truly successful life:

              You determine your future in the way you spend your everyday moments. If you want to be a successful person, you must consistently develop good daily habits. As Aristotle pointed out:

              “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.

              Building positive daily habits is a huge challenge, but can you imagine the amazing things you could accomplish with just a little commitment and determination?

              Creating lasting, healthy habits is the real key difference between people who are successful in life and those who are unsuccessful.

              You might be wondering which specific habits make the biggest difference. Not to worry, I’ve compiled a comparison list to help you get a jump start on a successful future.

              1. Successful people embrace change. Unsuccessful people fear change.

              Change is a constant for all of humanity, and it is important that you develop a positive relationship with it.

              When unexpected or unwelcome changes arise, ask yourself how you can embrace it instead of running away. A few practical ways to reverse a change-fearing mindset include:

              • Take a moment to recognize and address any fears associated with the upcoming change.
              • Communicate with a person you trust about your negative feelings toward change.
              • Practice positive thinking, which you can read about in the next section.

              2. Successful people exude joy. Unsuccessful people think, say and do negative things.

              A joyful, positive disposition can seem like a distant reality in today’s cynical world, but it may be easier to achieve than you think. All you have to do is notice the good things around you and practice being thankful.

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              Mindfulness and gratitude are not just buzz words – choosing a positive attitude can honestly change your life. Many studies have found that thankfulness leads to greater happiness. Furthermore, research indicates that gratitude may even have a lasting positive impact on the brain and overall mental health.[1]

              3. Successful people forgive others. Unsuccessful people hold grudges.

              As a human being, you have likely been offended or hurt by others plenty of times. Don’t give in to the temptation to hold a grudge. Let it go.

              Note that forgiving someone does not equate to giving up your boundaries (which are very important) or even admitting that the offending party is right. You should choose to let go for your own peace of mind.

              4. Successful people track progress. Unsuccessful people just criticize.

              Some kinds of criticism, such as constructive criticism, are good for personal and professional development. The kind of criticism I’m talking about is the pessimistic, nagging, unhelpful variety. This is the kind of criticism in play when you are unfairly harsh to yourself or others.

              Toss unfounded criticisms aside and consider tracking your “wins” or your progresses, no matter how small. Take mental notes or keep a progress journal.

              If you have a solid sense of what you have achieved, you will be less tempted to be hard on yourself.

              5. Successful people share information, data and ideas. Unsuccessful people hoard.

              If you have useful information or generate brilliant ideas on the regular, your first instinct may be to keep it all to yourself for personal gain and solo recognition.

              Instead of hoarding bright ideas, share them with your team. Your talents will be on display for the team, and the team will be able to support you and make your ideas a reality.

              6. Successful people are humble. Unsuccessful people talk more than they listen.

              Humility is key. The ability to listen to other people, really listen and understand, is essential to success in both work and relationships — and to listen you have to be humble.

              Everyone has experienced the frustration of being in a one-sided conversation. When someone approaches you with a question or concern, put your own world aside for just a moment and give them the kindness of your full attention.

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              7. Successful people take risks. Unsuccessful people take the easy way out.

              The next time your heart is racing and you want to walk away, consider embracing the risk. You never know what might happen if you take a chance.

              Embracing risks looks like accepting the speaking engagement even though it seems a little scary. Success takes the courageous route, not the easy route.

              8. Successful people learn, improve and read every day. Unsuccessful people stop learning.

              Instead of binge-watching a show tonight, save an hour before bed to read a book and expand your mind.

              Unsuccessful people are afraid to be flexible – they don’t challenge themselves to learn new things. Avoid this pitfall by exposing yourself to new thoughts and ideas every day.

              9. Successful people handle problems well. Unsuccessful people act before they think.

              The next time you run into a problem or even an emergency, try to work through your initial panic reaction with a few deep breaths.

              Instead of acting rashly, think through your next actions as quickly but as logically as you can.

              Learning to handle problems thoughtfully is an absolutely essential tool in the successful person’s toolbox (that’s you!).

              10. Successful people accept responsibility for their failures. Unsuccessful people blame others.

              Along with a previous tip about humility, this is one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do – but also the most rewarding. When you’ve failed, you must fight the urge to pass the blame. Successful people are able to fail honestly and gracefully.

              And, hey, don’t feel bad about failing. Some of the most successful people in the world have failed too many times to count. It’s all a part of the process.

              You can check out this article for more tips on how to fail well:

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              How Failure Helps You To Succeed and Grow

              11. Successful people work with passion and commitment. Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.

              A short and sweet lesson for you:

              You should never expect to achieve the things you want without working hard.

              Follow your passion and stay committed to pursuing it. Work hard and stick to your habits every day. You’ll earn your reward.

              12. Successful people spend time with the right people. Unsuccessful people think they already know it all.

              A lot of people miss out on useful relationships and information sharing because they think they can do it all alone.

              Spend time with people who inspire you, spur you to be a better person, and remind you that you can’t go it alone.

              13. Successful people make to-do lists and maintain proper life balance. Unsuccessful people waste their time.

              Ah, time management. Unsuccessful people never master the art of organization and planning.

              Here are a few tips for you when it comes to time management:

              • Make to-do lists. Seriously, this will help you. Make time to do it every morning, evening, or whenever you are able.
              • Keep track of your time. Are you happy with the way you are currently balancing things? What changes can you make?
              • Keep a calendar full of your long-term goals (see next tip).

              14. Successful people write down goals and think long term about their burning desires. Unsuccessful people get distracted every day.

              Why is it so important to keep a long-term goal calendar? Here’s the deal:

              The things you are passionate about today need a backbone.

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              Give your passionate ideas sustainability by writing down goals and staying on task instead of succumbing to distraction.

              15. Successful people compliment others. Unsuccessful people try to bring others down to their level.

              There is no greater confidence than saying “no” to sudden jealous or envious feelings and choosing to sincerely admire someone’s talents instead.

              Unsuccessful people live in a world driven by competition, but successful people know that building people up is far more rewarding than bringing them down.

              16. Successful people want others to succeed. Unsuccessful people secretly hope they fail.

              In the same vein as the point above, this tip is all about good intentions.

              Care for the people around you. Encourage them toward their successes. Hoping that others fail will not help you at all.

              17. Successful people know their purpose and mission. Unsuccessful people don’t know what they want to be.

              The last thing that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is one of the most important:

              Keep your mission in mind.

              Don’t be swayed to and fro by passing emotions and events. Know who you are and pursue your dreams wholeheartedly.

              Final thoughts

              Above all, stay confident. Truly believe that you can be and are successful. Strive to prove it in your day-to-day habits and activities!

              What are you waiting for? Choose one of the habits above and get started today.

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              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Berkeley University of California: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

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