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Limitations of Will Power

Limitations of Will Power

Why do New Years Resolutions Fail?

Many of us set goals and expect our willpower to carry us to the finish line.  We hold back, almost feeling like we are being punished, so that we can delay gratification or stick to an unpleasant task.  

Even in business this idea of effort controlling outcome gets exaggerated.  The same salesperson using the same effort will still have varying results.  The best way to have consistent results isn’t by addressing effort; it is by addressing the system.

Changing our habits takes much more than effort or willpower.  The reason that systems are so effective is because it takes the willpower and only uses small chunks of it.  

Normal diets, exercise plans, personal finance strategies, sales managers, etc. tend to rely on the fact that our willpower can guide our decision-making.   Each day we go through more and more of the reserve of willpower.  The problem is that research shows us that willpower is finite.  As we use the willpower, we have less in reserve next time, until we get to our breaking point where we quit.  

Instead of looking at a new diet or exercise routine as a short term project, make changes that rely less on sheer willpower, and more on building new habits.  Start an exercise routine that is 10 minutes of minimal exercise every day for a month.  Then start to increase the time and effort put forth in each workout.  

Don’t have a strict diet with a cheat day.  Instead, slowly incorporate healthier foods and planned grocery shopping trips.  This will force you to use willpower in small chunks rather than burn through your reserve.  

The reason that I love using systems to solve problems and accomplish goals is because I know that I can do something easy over and over and turn it into a habit.  Once it is a habit neuroscience tells us that our brains form connections that get strengthened over time.  

Someone learning to play the drums has a difficult time at first.  The more they play the more their brain strings together the neurons needed to move their hands and feet in the correct manner.  Once that habit gets solidified, then the same process can be used to improve and get better as a drummer.  

The key isn’t to get to that advanced level as quickly as possible by using sheer willpower.  It is to create a habit of playing that makes it easy to practice.  Once it is easy to practice on a regular basis, the rest becomes easy.  

The key part of any of these examples is the habit-forming aspect.  Form a habit by focusing on very easy, repeatable steps.  Start with something overly easy in an attempt to make it simple enough to do again and again. 

I have been amazed at what is possible and easy using systems.  While easy, it certainly isn’t quick.  This is the way to build lasting growth, not just short term windfalls.  I encourage you to revisit something that you have been unable to achieve and use a different approach.  This time only focus on easy tasks to build a new habit.  Then increase the effort after you feel it is automatic and easy.  If you do, you to will be amazed at what is possible!