In my last post on will power, I suggested – nay, shouted to the heavens – that will power is not a necessary ingredient in the recipe for success.
Will power is a casual boyfriend – fun when he’s around but temporary, fickle, and mercilessly short-term. Trying to build your longterm plans on this kind of foundation is a bad, bad, BAD idea. (We can talk about dating in another post, my darlings.)
However you can harness the energy of will power, when it deigns to pay you a visit, and use that energy to set up systems that will serve your purpose and help you achieve your goals. Automate will power, if you will.
Steve Pavlina (he’s the male, online Oprah of personal development) writes much the same thing in his blog, Personal Development for Smart People:
“Don’t try to tackle your problems and challenges in such a way that a high level of willpower is required every day. Willpower is unsustainable. If you attempt to use it for too long, you’ll burn out. It requires a level of energy that you can maintain only for a short period of time… in most cases the fuel is spent within a matter of days.”
He uses losing weight as his example (I now worship you, Steve Pavlina). When will power pays you a visit and sings his siren song of potential achievement, use that moment of motivation to make a plan, and execute. Now. Right now. I said NOW, soldier.
This is what Steve Pavlina says, and he says it so perfectly that I’m just going to quote directly:
“So you sit down and make a plan. This doesn’t require much energy, and you can spread the work out over many days…
Then you execute — hard and fast. You can probably implement the whole plan in one day. Attend your first Weight Watchers meeting and get all the materials. Purge the unhealthy food from the kitchen. Buy the new groceries, the new cookbook, and the new scale. Post the weight chart and the sample meals list. Select recipes and cook a batch of food for the week. Whew!
By the end of the day, you’ve used your willpower not to diet directly but to establish the conditions that will make your diet easier to follow.”
Yes! Yes! YES! (I’m channeling Meg Ryan here.) Use will power to set up a self-perpetuating, sustainable lifestyle ecosystem. You’ll grow into your goals organically, because you’ve designed your environment for success.
Think about it this way. If, like me, you’re carrying around a whole whack of extra weight, it is because you designed your life to make you fat. Not consciously, maybe, but we’re not talking about intentions, we’re talking about results. If you habitually eat fast food, processed food, think potato chips are a main course and that walking is for people who cannot afford cars, then yes, darling, you’ve designed your environment so that you will be fat.
You don’t require will power to be fat, do you? H-E-double-hockey-sticks to the no. You just engineered your life so that on a daily basis you have no choice but to be overweight. (Hellooooo North America!)
You don’t need will power to achieve your goals. Will power is useful to fuel your initial plan, but ultimately it exhausts itself quickly. Instead of relying on fuel that is only temporarily available, build yourself a self-fueling system of daily habits that will move you towards your goals automatically.
I know, I know – this is not a sexy prescription. But think of it like software: good software, the kind you like to use, just works. No bells, no whistles, no drama, no random error messages (Yo! Bill!). It is just a boring system that does what you want, when you want, and helps you produce what you choose.
Eff will power. Design your life. Build a boring system that works.
The Will Power Series: