Willpower: the final frontier. To boldly go where no man has gone before.
That’s the tagline for something, isn’t it? Well, even if it isn’t, Benjamin P. Hardy (@BenjaminPHardy) has something to say about it in his article titled Willpower Doesn’t Work. Here’s How to Change Your Life. (The article is an excerpt from his upcoming book, The Proximity Effect.)
Titles like the above link usually make me yawn and pick at my nails. However, I’ve read some of Mr. Hardy’s stuff in the past and although he’s a little too optimistic and sunshiny for me in the early morning, days I feel like garbage, or nights I want to bang my head into a brick wall while listening to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” every once in a while I manage to stumble across his online posts when I’m a touch more grounded. This is one of those moments – and this is one of those pieces that’s worth reading, if only because it’s a bold statement he makes, a final frontier if you will, and one where most men and women don’t usually go.
One of the first quotes he references is the following:
“Willpower is for people who are still uncertain about what they want to do.”
See, this is the kind of philosophical filet mignon I enjoy sinking my teeth into with a fork and chainsaw because it’s true. And while it’s true, it still screws with your head because you’ve been taught the exact opposite thing your whole life.
As the author goes on to say:
The very fact that willpower is required comes from two more fundamental sources — the causes:
1. You don’t know what you want, and are thus internally conflicted.
2. You haven’t committed to something and created conditions that facilitate your commitment.
Put another (much more crass) way, do as Chopper Reid says and harden the f*** up.
Seriously, though, lots of people like to quote Michael Jordan when it comes down to this, but Sir Air Jordan did indeed have a point when he said that once he makes a decision he doesn’t think about it anymore. What’s done is done and you’ve reached a conclusion, now focus on making it happen.
On a personal note, I’ve failed many more times than I’ve succeeded with respect to accomplishing goals; if my life win/loss ratio were a batting average, I’d be relegated to the T-ball league somewhere in Laos. Perhaps the underhand mushball league in Burkina Faso if I got lucky.
However, that’s not to say I haven’t achieved some of the things I’ve set my mind to. And just as Benjamin Hardy writes, it wasn’t some kind of mysterious willpower (which he and other psychologists define as something akin to a muscle: the more you have to use it, the more you wear it out, and consequently the less ability it has to help you in your time of need) that allowed me to make these significant advancements in my life. It was something closer to resoluteness, determination, conviction, resolve, or – as they like to say in the military – failure is not an option.
Set the goal. Lay down a plan. Own it. Do it.
And don’t look back in the rearview mirror until you’ve summited the mountain.