Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 12, 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

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.

      Advertising

      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.

      Advertising

      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.

        Advertising

        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.

              Advertising

              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

              What Is Positive Thinking and How to Always Think Positive Do You Know Your Motivation Style? A Stress-Free Way To Prioritizing Tasks And Ending Busyness How To Apply the Stages Of Learning (With Free Worksheet) What Is A Flow State And How To Achieve It For Productivity

              Trending in Success Mindset

              1 How to Overcome Fear and Find Success (The Ultimate Guide) 2 8 Ways Highly Successful People Carry out Successful Plans 3 Reactive Vs Proactive: How To Be Proactive And Not Reactive 4 10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Overcome Your Fear 5 13 Essential Personal Qualities for a Successful Life

              Read Next

              Advertising
              Advertising
              Advertising

              Last Updated on April 8, 2021

              How to Overcome Fear and Find Success (The Ultimate Guide)

              How to Overcome Fear and Find Success (The Ultimate Guide)

              Take a moment and imagine what your life would be like if you had no fear. What would you do if you knew how to overcome fear? It’s not difficult to imagine that it would alter your life significantly.

              I believe that fear is the single biggest obstacle that holds people back from fulfilling their potential and becoming the best version of themselves. Fear of failure, fear of abandonment, fear of success, fear of not being good enough

              The question is, where does it come from?

              Neuroscientists claim that humans are the most fearful creatures on the planet because of our ability to learn, think, and create fear in our minds. We scare ourselves by imagining the worst possible outcomes, assuming that we are protecting ourselves from imminent danger.

              You make the choice to be a victim of your fear and anxiety or to push them aside and be courageous.

              In this article, we’ll look into the root cause of fear and how to conquer fear to realize our potential.

              What Is Fear, Really?

              This acronym best reflects what fear is[1]:

              Learn how to overcome fear with the fear acronym

                Fear is an emotion created by your mind based on real or imagined threats. Fear may be completely founded in reality, or not. It may also manifest as anxiety disorders in some cases, as anxiety is based on worries or fears about the future.

                These imagined scenarios of perceived threats end up feeding your fear to the point where it becomes all-consuming. Often, these scenarios never happen.

                Advertising

                The real issue is not the fear itself, but rather how we hold it in our minds.

                How to Overcome Fear

                Overcoming fear may sound easier said than done. When you are in the thick of fear, it’s hard to see a way out. The good news is that, because you are the root cause of your fears, you are also the solution to them.

                1. Identify Your Fears Through Writing

                There are times when I’ve felt afraid but couldn’t identify why. If you keep your fears inside, you allow your mind to control how you feel.

                In order to prevent this confusion from happening in the first place, identify what your fears are before moving on to learning how to deal with fear.

                What makes you feel afraid?

                Instead of just thinking about these things, write them down. When you write down your fears on paper and actually question them, it forces you to analyze why you are afraid. Questions are designed to trigger your fears and bring them to the surface.

                This isn’t a comfortable process, but deep inner work never is. However, if you continue to keep your feelings in the dark, the scarier they will be, and the more disempowered you will become.

                Once you identify the type of fear and the experience that you associate with your fears, you become armed with the power to take action to change them. Eventually, your fears become smaller and smaller, and your strength gets bigger and bigger.

                As you’re identifying what your fears are, you can try Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment. It will help you identify which areas may be causing you more fear and which you can fall back on as strengths.

                2. Practice Gratitude

                If you want to learn how to overcome fear, gratitude is key. From personal experience, I have learned that it’s difficult to experience fear and gratitude at the same time. They are literally on opposite ends of the continuum of the human experience.

                Advertising

                When you are experiencing difficult times in life, it’s easy to drop into fear and overwhelm. In that energetic space, it can be hard to stay grounded.

                Developing a gratitude practice allows you to not drown in fear. It doesn’t mean that you won’t still feel it, but the blow will be lessened, thereby allowing you to see the brighter side of struggle.

                In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their physical and mental health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships[2].

                Anyone who experiences fear knows that there is almost always a story attached to whatever it is that you’re fearful of.  Fear loves to hang out with your inner critic and come up with worst-case scenarios about what could happen.

                Gratitude helps keep these limiting stories at bay when you’re learning how to overcome fear. When you practice gratitude, your brain shifts to what is currently working instead of what isn’t working.

                The act of being fearful is a future-oriented process, while gratitude is a present-oriented one. The next time that fear tries to creep its way into your head, replace that disempowering thought with an empowering one.

                You can learn more about how to replace fear based practices with more positive ones in this video:

                3. Release Control

                Being a control freak is how a lot of people manage their fears, or so they think. Unfortunately, control has no place on the path to learning how to overcome fear.

                In actuality, all that they are doing is masking their fears by trying to control everything. If you can relate, it’s time to release control. Trust me when I say that this is a losing battle.

                Fear results in controlling behavior, and when this behavior doesn’t give us the results we’re seeking, it further intensifies our fears.

                Advertising

                In your attempt to control fear, you actually become a victim of it. This fear and control cycle leaves a lot of people feeling defeated. The reality is that there will always be things that are far beyond your control.

                The only way that we can move past needing to be in control is to accept that it is not always up to us. While you may be in control of your decisions, you don’t always have control over situations that you are pushed into, nor can you control how others react.

                The only thing that you have control over is your inner world and how you choose to respond to your external environment. The next time you catch yourself trying to control everything, step back and ask yourself what you are afraid of.

                Start to get curious about what thoughts are generating your fear. Curiosity and fear don’t like to co-exist. Once you let go of one, you invite the other in, which will help as you learn how to get rid of fear.

                True freedom comes from fully releasing control. When you are able to do this, you begin the process of releasing your fears as well.

                4. Recite Positive Affirmations

                Positive affirmations can be used to combat almost any negative thought pattern, which can be very helpful when you want to learn how to overcome fear. Using them to help challenge your fears can help retrain your brain and have your fears reframed as powerful statements.

                Research shows that you can actually train your subconscious mind such that it will help you to attract exactly what you desire in life[3].

                Instead of saying “I am afraid of doing this because I might fail,” look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I am prepared for this, I am ready, and I will not fail.”

                The more you use positive affirmations, the stronger they become. The best way to cancel a negative belief is to develop its positive counterpart.

                Commit to making positive affirmations a key component of your morning ritual. It literally takes one thought, repeated over and over again, to set you on the path to transforming your entire life.

                Advertising

                Here are more positive affirmations you can try: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life

                5. Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

                Living in your comfort zone will get you nowhere in life, and it certainly won’t help you learn how to overcome fear. In my experience, not doing the things that scare you will only increase the likelihood that your fears will grow and inevitably take over every decision that you make.

                I want to encourage you to do one thing every day that scares you. It can be something small. All that matters is that you take action. Make it a habit to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

                Putting yourself in new and uncomfortable situations triggers a unique part of the brain that releases dopamine, nature’s make-you-happy chemical. Here’s the mind-blower: that unique region of the brain is only activated when you see or experience completely new things[4].

                When you condition yourself to do something every day that scares you, your fear fades away, and your courage grows. Think about it…when you face your fears, how can you fear them again? Soon enough, your confidence will skyrocket.

                Final Thoughts

                The next time that you feel threatened by fear, I encourage you to pull upon one or more of the above strategies. Change your relationship with fear. Instead of letting it knock you down, use it as motivation to grow and achieve more.

                Once you recognize that fear is not real, the obstacles that appear to stand in your way will be removed, and you will feel empowered to take action.

                Your potential in life is limited by only one factor: you. Are you ready to transform fear into action?

                More on How to Overcome Fear

                Featured photo credit: Jonathan Klok via unsplash.com

                Reference

                Read Next