Willpower is Overrated

Humans are awesome, but we are also terribly flawed creatures in countless ways. And there is one particular thing which, while it directly correlates with success and personal, emotional, and career achievement, we universally suck at!

Willpower, and it’s overrated.

willpower in wood type

It is well-documented that Willpower fluctuates wildly with energy levels, mood, blood sugar, and even what time of day it is – think about it, crimes and violence always tend to happen late at night, right? Even the most respected, professional individuals cannot rely on their willpower at all times. It’s just not possible. It gets depleted too easily. It is too unreliable.

Fortunately there is a simple framework shift that can prevent this from ever being a problem.

1) The first step, which is probably the most important, is to understand that you can’t trust your willpower. We put a lot of emphasis on gritting your teeth and trying harder in our society. I know a lot of people who try to function this way, but that’s a fools game with willpower. If you want consistent results, remove your dependence on your willpower completely. At the risk of stating an overused cliche (oh well it’s true): try smarter, not harder.

2) Once you accept that you can’t (and shouldn’t) expect to rely on everlasting willpower, the next step is to set up concrete methods for avoiding the use of willpower whenever possible! How? By building a physical environment which represents your ideal self.

Here’s another thing about us humans….we are very easily influenced by our surroundings in most cases. I hate to have to write that, because I’m a stubborn, strong-headed, mule of a person sometimes, so I don’t like admitting that fact. But it’s just plain true, even for people like me.

The silver lining is that 1+1 = 2. We can leverage both of these realities to remove the obstacle of willpower.

It’s one of the simplest, most powerful realizations I’ve had in recent years: Build your environment that you want yourself to reflect, and create systems to compensate for your shortcomings, and everything immediately becomes easier.

This applies to all habits, characteristics, skills, and general productivity. Here are some specific examples:

  • Want to eat healthier? Have ONLY healthy food in your house.
  • Want to drink less? Spend less time around people who drink.
  • Worried you’ll bail on that morning gym routine? Sleep in your gym clothes.
  • Spend too much time browsing online aimlessly? Install FREEDOM.

On the flip side: Put a TV in your bedroom and you’ll end up laying in bed watching TV (I haven’t lived with a TV in years and it’s the best decision I ever made). Hang around smokers and you’ll quickly break that smoke-free New Years Resolution. The more you constantly have to internally say “No!” the more you’ll end up inadvertently going “ohhh alright….”

This will happen even when you don’t even realize it, which is how you ended up with that extra doughnut stuffed in your mouth. We interact with our environment without even thinking about it most of the time.

If you effectively implement this principle, then you’ll begin to find you have plenty of willpower when you need it, to do the things that really matter, like closing that big sale, holding your tongue when you’ve been pushed past your limit, or avoiding the overwhelming urge to consume carbs as you transition into ketolysis.

The best part is that this perspective applies to EVERYTHING. So whatever you are trying to do more of, do less of, get better at, etc., start taking the small steps now to create the environment that will compel you to be the kind of person you are trying to be.

– Grant

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