Why You Should Stop Relying On Willpower
You’ve just made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. So you sign up for a gym membership. You commit to going every day. It’s an act of will power.
At first, everything goes well. You’re very motivated, and you can imagine yourself losing all that weight in no time.
After the first week, you skip a couple of times because something came up. Your alarm clock didn’t go off, or you just feel too tired to go.
Two weeks in, you stop going.
If you had a personal trainer or a gym partner, you would probably have kept going. So why is that, and what does that have to do with your business?
Why Willpower Fails
Let’s say there’s something that you know will bring you the results you want if you just do it every day. Will you do it?
What usually happens is that after 2 weeks, the obstacles that come up and frustration associated to them get to a point where you stop. It’s just too hard, and even though you still want those results, you can’t follow through on the actions you need to do.
I’ve seen so many people try to lose weight or get things done in their business. They are very motivated at first, but they run out of willpower after a couple of weeks, and they quit.
And the more times this happens, the less confident they become about getting it done.
It is a downward spiral back to the status quo.
So What Is Willpower Exactly?
Willpower is essentially the mental energy, motivation or drive that you use to do anything. It is the power that allows you to counter procrastination and impulses.
When your willpower is lacking, it becomes almost impossible to achieve your goals.
Here are a few important things to know about willpower:
- You wake up with little: About 98% of what you do today is the same as what you did yesterday. We are creatures of habits, and it is very hard to change. You have control over that 2% left.
- You cannot win against your inner elephant for long: In the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, they explain that your rational mind and your emotional mind compete for control. They make the analogy of your emotional mind being an elephant, and your rational mind is the rider on the elephant. The rider can give the elephant a direction, but when the latter decides to go in a different direction, the rider can’t do much about it for long. Eventually, the elephant wins.
- Your willpower diminishes with mental fatigue: your reserves of willpower burn throughout the day. Mental fatigue happens as a result of the use of self-control, inhibiting your emotions, handling frustrating situations or focusing your thoughts on solving a problem.
- You can renew your energy, hence your willpower, by sleeping and resting.
If you opt for willpower alone to get to where you want to go in your life and business, here is how to leverage it properly:
- Clarity is power. What is it that you want? The more clear you are about it, the more likely you are to manifest it. Take the time to write it down in detail. This will allow you to make the best use of your willpower by focusing your efforts on the things that matter the most to you.
- Build a burning desire. What will give you the strength to persevere when the going gets tough? You must want what you want badly, or you risk succumbing to procrastination.
- Install habits. Habits are your best ally when relying on your willpower. Routines turn your brain is on autopilot. You are then burning very little or no mental energy.
- Do the most important things in the morning. It is when you’re rested that you have the most willpower – especially in the morning. Take advantage of that energy by doing what has the highest positive impact on your outcome, and what is the most difficult to accomplish.
- Plan daily. After you created an initial plan that was validated and approved by your mastermind group or your coach, you should plan daily. Break down your tasks in manageable chunks, and assign yourself 3 to 5 things you’ll get done today.
- Rejuvenate. Rest replenishes your willpower. Take a nap into the afternoon, have a good night of sleep and enjoy spending time with loved ones. Your batteries will recharge fully, and you’ll have more willpower to keep you on track.
What I want you to get out of this is that there is a way to make it work, but it’s a lot of… work.
What if there was a better way? What if there was a way that required virtually no willpower and gave better results?
Let’s talk about accountability.
Accountability – What It Is And How It Works
Accountability can be simply defined as being held responsible for your actions.
Wikipedia gives the following example: Person A is accountable to person B. A is obliged to inform B of A’s actions, and suffer the consequences in case of misconduct.
If the consequence of not doing something is much more painful than just doing the thing, then it’s a no-brainer. You will just naturally do the task.
What Can You Be Held Accountable For?
Just about anything.
It can be personal (health-related, going to the gym,…), for relationships and dating, or for business (lead generation, following-up on prospects and clients, writing content for your blog,…).
It is mostly effective with tangible quantifiable to-dos. For example, my coach holds me accountable to getting my list of to-dos done until our next session in two weeks. He also holds me accountable to each item on the to-do list, for a specific date.
If I fail to do one of the to-dos for its specified date, or if I don’t finish my to-dos before our next session, I pay him a certain amount.
Money As A Consequence? Really?
It doesn’t have to be money. The consequence can be just about anything, as long as it’s painful for you. For example, you can agree to go clean up your accountability partner’s bathroom if you don’t do a certain task.
I find that money is just easier logistically.
How much money should you give if you fail what you promised you’d do? That depends on you and your budget.
For me, between $20 and $250 is frustrating enough but it won’t ruin me if I end up having to pay.
To turn it up a notch, write a cheque to your partner, and tell them to cash it as soon as you fail doing what you set out to do. You’ll then have to write another one. That will be good motivation for you to do it next time!
The beauty of accountability is that it works so well that you won’t end up really paying much. Among all the tasks I got held accountable for, I only failed once – and it only cost me $20.
Stickk.com offers an accountability service online. It allows you to define your goal, set your accountability with a financial consequence, and get supporters to help you on your journey.
You might also want to read Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done. From the book description: “If you’ve ever tried to meet a goal and came up short, the problem may not have been that the goal was too difficult or that you lacked the discipline to succeed. From giving up cigarettes to increasing your productivity at work, you may simply have neglected to give yourself the proper incentives.”
Who Should Your Partner Be?
Choose someone who is serious and responsive. Ask them to do it to help you, and not for the money. Remember that failure is rare with accountability.
At the same time, since they want you to succeed, they will be supportive. This dynamic will make your partner even more serious and responsive towards you.
They don’t need to be in the same field as you.
But the more naturally responsive and “on-the-ball” that person is, the better.
If they’ve never used accountability and don’t really understand what it’s about, educate them about it. Tell them this is important for you, that this method works well for you, and that you need their help.
What If You Do “Fail”?
You probably will stumble once or twice.
And that’s OK.
Problem-solve with your partner. Ask yourselves how you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
You might have to set new conditions in place.
And then, try again.
For example, if you want to wake up by 7am and you need 8 hours of sleep, you need to be sleeping by 11pm. That means that you should start winding down around 10pm, turning the lights off gradually and relaxing.
Take some time off if you need to, then get back to it. Set some new accountability and work smarter having learned from your failure.
Initiate The Accountability
Is there something you’re not getting done? If it’s important for you or your business, figure out the deadline and the negative consequence. Communicate it to your partner.
It is useful to have a blog to post your accountability and follow-up on, and to receive feedback. Set one up with WordPress. WordPress.com offers a free service and it takes a few minutes to configure a site.
If you have your own domain name and hosting, install WordPress then configure it manually. Set the theme, the users. Communicate the information to your accountability partner, and post a first article describing your current commitments.
Update your partner on whether you did or didn’t do what he’s holding you accountable for. It is your responsibility, not his.
Use your willpower to set up the accountability, and your success will be inevitable.
Have you had the experience of willpower failing and dropping after 2 weeks? Have you tried accountability instead? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience.