A lot of the popular self-help/entrepreneurial literature teaches the importance of developing “will power,” to “pull through,” “stay the course,” “put up a good fight,” and simply overcome all the obstacles that life and its changes throw at us. Amazon is full of books and courses that claim to help you to “Supercharge Your Willpower 10X Longer than Everyone Else.”
In my humble opinion, we’d be better off starting with our wants than getting obsessed about how to do hard things, i.e., by relying on will power. To me, will power implies that if I stay put, one fine day, it will have all paid off and I’m going to be happy, well and healthy. And in some cases that’s true.
But let’s look at it from a different angle: Whatever it is we do, be it changing careers, our lifestyle, or whether we want to lose weight or learn a new language, the overlooked question before the “how?” is “why?”
For example, “Why do I want to make lifestyle changes?”
It’s a simple question, yet it can take tremendous courage to answer it with honesty.
Is it because I care about what other people think of me, or the way I live my life? Is it because it’s the “healthy thing to do,” or because all my friends are doing it, too?
Or is my want to change rooted in a clear understanding that the way I’ve chosen to live continues to make me miserable, and is slowly sucking out my life energy.
With insight comes clarity. And I find clarity to be fertile soil for growing innermost passions, aka wants. If one lacks the passion or the want, not enough will in the universe is enough to carry one through.
My point is, don’t ask yourself if you’re willing to make changes and sacrifices in your life. Ask yourself if you want to make them and why. The clearer and more honest your answers, the smoother the effort will be and less will power one will need to “pull through” and create sustainable changes in one’s life. At least, that’s been my experience. Also, the understanding that making a lifestyle change is not a goal-oriented task but rather an ongoing process can take the mental weight off one’s shoulders.
Having said that, I don’t want to dismiss will power. It’s an important hammer to have in your mental toolbox. The ability to pull through challenging times and setbacks is a discipline that can be cultivated and trained.
However, you’ll need much less of it once you’re clear and honest about your basic motivations, and let the want-power fuel your will power, and not the other way around.