Willpower is For People Who Haven’t Made Up Their Minds

Most people approach goals and personal improvement the hard way. Rather than changing their environment, they strive to overcome their current environment.” –Benjamin P. Hardy

Willpower doesn’t work.

Sure, it does for a time; when you commit to a new goal, the adrenaline and dopamine creates a chemical surge of motivation and energy that this time is gonna work.

But then the inevitable happens. You get off track; you lose some momentum, you begin sputtering and failing. You hit the wall, the exact same time you did last time.

The end. Back to mediocrity.

Willpower Doesn’t Work

Willpower is based on the premise of overcoming your environment, rather than adjusting the environment itself. And that is why it is impossible to maintain.

Consider this. Let’s say you decide to “start eating healthy.” However, you don’t change your environment; your cupboards and fridge are still full of unhealthy junk food, you don’t add the necessary additions to succeed like healthy food.

At first, you will grit your teeth and successfully reach past the soda and chips to pull out the spinach and carrots. Your surge of motivation will carry you through the temptation…for a time. But then you’ll get tired.

You’ll lose momentum, as we always experience. You’ll have a long day, you’ll feel sad, and you’ll turn to what you know works — comfort food. You willpower will be defeated. You tell yourself “it’s just this one time.”

But it’s never just “one hamburger.”

Never Just One Hamburger

Charles Chu describes the exponentially negative effects “one hamburger” creates:

On your way home from work (you’re walking) you catch a whiff of a rich, salty smell. Hamburgers, from the local fast food joint. Lunch was 6 hours ago. “What the hell,” you say, “it’s just a burger. It won’t matter in the long run…”

Yes, a single hamburger won’t make you fat or unhealthy. That’s not the point. The real risk is in the downstream effects of your choices.

You eat that hamburger. It sends a rush of pleasant hormones to your brain. You’re happy. The food toxins are absorbed through your gut lining and flow to the brain. Bam, brain fog. Clouded judgment.

Suddenly, fries don’t sound so bad. So you eat some fries. Well, what the hell. Why not some ice cream too.

We’re not done yet.

When you bought that hamburger, you flipped a switch in your brain. The switch says, “Hamburgers OK.”

Guess what happens tomorrow when you walk by the same burger joint? It gets a bit easier to do it again. By eating that burger, smoking that cigarette or shoplifting that pack of gum, you’ve made that much easier for the you of tomorrow to do the same thing again.

So no, it’s not “just a burger.” We’re talking about how one decision affects every single decision for the rest of your life.

That’s the power of downstream effects.

Willpower doesn’t work. Willpower is an uphill battle predicated on “not doing” something. Abstaining without replacing the void is a recipe for failure.

What works is commitment.

When you commit to an enormous goal that far exceeds your current capability, willpower won’t solve your problem. Rather, you’ll need a new environment that organically generates your goals — a context that forces you to become more than you currently are. Once you design the right conditions, your desired behavior naturally follows.” –Benjamin P. Hardy

The Results of a True Commitment

Commitment — true commitment — isn’t just a new goal. It’s a point of no return. It’s a fundamental change to the entire system. The system will either reject the change, or be forced to morph into a completely new structure.

This new structure is the next step in evolving into your the best version of yourself.

In the words of Steven Kotler:

“This is what the self-help books don’t tell you. Fully alive and deeply committed is a risky business. Once you strip away the platitudes, a life of passion and purpose will always cost, as T.S. Eliot reminds us, ‘Not less than everything.’”

Willpower says, “I’m not going to eat junk food anymore.

But commitment says, “I am a healthy person.”

If you proclaim you are a healthy person (even if you’re not actually one yet), your body and mind will adapt.

If you are a “healthy person,” then you don’t do things the are opposite to your values — indulge in unhealthy junk foods or avoid exercise. You will begin to do what a “healthy person” would do: eat healthy and exercise, for starters.

This is the power of affirmations Hal Elrod describes in his book The Miracle Morning. If you begin telling yourself who you want to be, your body will catch up. If you begin declaring your commitment vocally to yourself, you mind and body will begin to adopt that commitment as the new system.

I am a healthy person.

I am not scared of the dark.

I am a loving, caring husband.

I am a writer.

I am fucking unstoppable.

“Acting as if” will become “acting as is.”

Commitment as a Strategy

This strategy is exponentially more effective and powerful than relying on willpower, a finite and fragile structure by default.

Willpower is 98%. Commitment is 100%. And 98% is harder than 100%.

Willpower is the free sample. Commitment is the premium upgrade.

Willpower is a half-measure. Commitment is all-or-nothing.

Willpower is one foot in, one foot out. Commitment says “this is who I am now.

Willpower has a safety net.

Commitment is 100%.

There is no room for cheating or reverting back to old behaviors. Commitment is for people who have made up their mind and decided to change a fundamental part of their system, which in turn will change the entire system. No shortcuts, no “just in case.”

This is who you are now.

Call to Action:

Is your life founded on willpower choices?

Or have you made an active, conscious decision to become something new entirely?

Read more at StuffGradsLike.com.

-Anthony

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