Willpower Doesnt Work; Heres How to Actually Change Your Life

August 26, 2017
Twenty20 / @photo.awareness

Many people think that what the addict needs is willpower, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Arnold M. Washton, Ph.D.

If you want to make any permanent change in your life, willpower wont get you there.

Whether you want to get healthier, stop using social media so much, improve your relationships, be happier, write a book, or start a businesswillpower wont help you with any of these things.

Personal progress and achieving success are best approachedlike youre overcoming addiction.Because, quite literally, thats what youre doing. As human-beings, we all have addictions.

I openlyadmitbeing addicted to social media, my current belief system, my comfort zone, and my excuses. Im also addicted to a lot of other behaviors that contradict my goals.

We are all addicted. And the cognitive dissonance is numbing.

If youre serious about the changes you want to make, willpower wont be enough. Quite the opposite. Willpower is whats holding you back.

Willpower is a broken approach to thriving andsuccess

Willpower is for people who are still uncertain about what they want to do.

If youre required to exert willpower to do something, there is an obvious internal conflict. You want to eat the cookie, but you also want to be healthy. Environment versus goal.

The tension is mounting


What are you going to do?

Are you going to be strong this time and resist? Or are you going to crumble?

According to psychological research, your willpower is like amuscle. Its a finite resource that depletes with use. As a result, by the end of your strenuous days, your willpower muscles are exhausted and youre left to your naked and defenseless selfwith zero control to stop the night-time munchies and time wasters.

At least, thats what youve been taught.

Clearly, the research on willpower explains human behavior. But only on the surface leveltheThe very fact that willpower is required comes from two more fundamental sourcesthe:

1. You dont know what you want, and are thus internally conflicted.

2. You haventto something and createdthat facilitate your commitment.

What do you reallywant?

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.
RalphWaldo Emerson

If your life requires willpower, you havent fully determined what you want. Because once you make a decision, the internal debate is over. As Michael Jordan has said,Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.

After you decide what you want, the decision is made. Thus, all future decisions regarding that matter have also been made. No questions.

So, are you serious about this? Or are you just talking? Are you still on the fence, or have you decided?

Until you decide, youll be required to use willpower, and will continue making minimal progress.

Are you committed?

What is commitment?

How do you know if youre truly committed to something?

When it comes to achieving goals, commitment involves:

  • Investing upfront
  • Making it public
  • Setting a timeline
  • Installing several forms of feedback/accountability
  • Removing or altering everything in your environment that opposes your commitment

If youre truly committed to something, in your mind, its as though youve already succeeded. All doubt and disbelief are gone.

If youre committed to running a marathon, youre going toput everything in placeto make sure it happens. Youre not going to leave it up to chance.

Youre going to start by signing up for a race (investment). Youre going to make it public (phase one of accountability). Youre going to get a running partner who holds you accountable. Youre going to track your progress (feedback) and account your progress to your accountability partner. Lastly, youre going to remove things in your life that keep you from running.

Commitment means you build external defense systems around your goals. Your internal resolve, naked to an undefended and opposing environment is not commitment.

Creating conditions that make success inevitable

The addict only needs to change one thing their whole damn life.
Ben Hill, Ph.D.

No matter how much internal resolve you have, you will fail to change your life if you dont change your environment.

This is where the willpower approach fails. The willpower approach doesnt focus on changing the environment, but instead, on increasing personal efforts toovercomethe current environment. What ends up happening?Eventually you succumb to your environment despite your greatest efforts to resist.

The environment is more powerful than your internal resolve. As a human-being, you always take on the form of the environments you continually place yourself.

Consequently, the best use of youris consciously designing environments that facilitate your commitments. Actually, if youre really committed to something, this is exactly what youll do.

If youre trying to stop drinking alcohol, you must stop being 1) around people that drink alcohol and 2) at places that serve alcohol. Your willpower will fail if you dont. You need to trulyyoure done, tocommit, and then tocreate an environmentto make the success of your commitment inevitable.

If you want to become a professional rock-climber, you need to surround yourself with professional rock-climbers and orient your whole lifestyle to that goal.

This is how evolution works. Weto our environments. Thus, conscious evolution involves purposefully choosing or creating environments that mold us into the person we want to become.

Everything in life is a natural and organic process. We adapt and evolve based on the environments we select. You are who you are because of your environment. Want to change? Then change your environment. Stop the willpower madness already.


Napoleon Hill once saidIn a similar way, Bill Walsh said,

If youre required to use willpower:

  • You havent made up your mind.
  • Your desire (your why) for your goals isnt strong enough.
  • You havent fully committed to what youre going to do.
  • Your environment opposes your goals. Thus, you havent created an environment that makes your goals inevitable.

Willpower sucks. Forget about it.

Instead of focusing on your behavior, focus on your environment. Your environmentincluding the people you surround yourself withis the clearest indicator of who you are and who youre becoming.

Benjamin Hardy is the author of
, available here.

Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/benjamin-hardy/2017/08/willpower-doesnt-work-heres-how-to-actually-change-your-life/