Why is Willpower so Hard?
I’m sitting here reading a book by the same name: “Willpower: Rediscovering our Greatest Strength”
It’s a great read so far.
40% through (thanks Kindle for keeping me on track!)
And its funny I say that, because I’ve just finished reading the part about how to keep yourself on track:
How to make sure you’re keeping to your own path. Not someone else’s.
Keeping on Track – Starting with Self-Control
Why you should work on your own self control first…
…because just imagine – without self-control, you’d be living life as though every day was a naked-run-through-a-field with your hands in the air screaming joy and delight…
Might be good once in a while, but where are you realistically going to end up?
(insert punch line here)
So how do we curtail our fresh air runs?…
In the book the authors give us three steps for better self-control:
1. Setting a Goal
2. Monitoring Your Behaviour
3. The Best Way to Focus for the Result you want
Numbers 1 and 2 are pretty simple to understand.
What you can’t measure, you can’t manage.
Goal Setting fixes that.
If you’re not doing step 1 already, start right now – don’t wait: Nike Swoosh it*
In terms of Monitoring, the book talks about studies where those with a mirror in front of them “compare themselves to what’s socially acceptable”…
…whether you pass an actual mirror and think:
“I really need a hair cut”, or
“does my bum look big in this?”
“Hey, that’s me!”
Apparently only a few mammals have this ability, and it takes us about 2 years from birth to realise the person in the mirror is actually ourselves.
From the Wall to the World…
It then moves from comparing ourselves in wall mirrors to social mirrors…
…when you’re comparing yourself against others:
– what do others think?
– what would they think of what i did last night (the alcohol affect)
– how come my neighbour has done that better than me? (the joneses)
This is used today in the mainstream by marketers who understand that human trait and play on that ‘social acceptance’
And by others, who some may say are more ethical, and use it for good – an example quoted is the Quantified Self website – where a community is building on how to measure for your good (health, mental, wealth, etc) – link is here: Quantified Self
They spend quite a few pages talking about better managing finance using mint.com – keeping you on top of your finances by comparing yourself to yourself (setting budgets) and also comparing against the average (as per their research)
(As a side note, we use xero.com for our own business and personal finance tracking, but haven’t personally used Mint.com as its US only)
That’s Monitoring yourself.
Focus On Results for Willpower
Lastly, and most interesting to me personally was number 3 of improving your self control – “The Best Way To Focus On The Result You Want”
Why’s this most interesting to me?
I teach 1 & 2 in my Productivity course inside the Solo Journey, so I understand those to quite a deep level.
But this third point was really interesting.
To paraphrase a whole chapter that walks through research and results, it says this:
“For contentment, apparently, it pays to look at how far you’ve come. To stoke motivation and ambition, focus instead on the road ahead”
What does that mean?
If you want to feel good about yourself, be comfortable in where you are, and enjoy the moment: Look backwards.
If you want to achieve really big things, scare yourself half to death with excitement and fear evenly mixed, because you really don’t know what the unknown holds: Look forward.
So what will it be?
And do you agree?
Let me know below! 🙂
p.s. if you want to check out the Willpower book yourself, the link is here: Willpower on Amazon
*Nike Swoosh = Just Do It.