Stop Relying on Motivation & Willpower to Succeed

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Don’t rely on your willpower to accomplish your tasks.

No matter how many articles you read about Elon Musk getting everything done before 3 AM or how you can write a book in a week if you just drink enough Bulletproof Coffee. Do not rely on your willpower to accomplish your goals.

It does not matter if you have the best self-efficacy of anybody you know and can take on almost any task, no matter how big. Do not rely on your willpower to accomplish your goals.

You may have the best system set up to get the highest-value items done in your day. You may schedule in time for deep-work. You may be well-versed in your own psychology and know your own shortcomings. Do not rely on your willpower to accomplish your goals.

Personal development literature that focuses on ways to increase your willpower get the psychology of achievement all wrong. Highly effective people rarely operate at a higher level than you or I because of their willpower.

These highly effective people may occasionally wake up earlier and they may be marginally better at checking their things off their to-do lists than the average person, but their willpower is not the thing that makes them highly effective. Having a strong sense of willpower is a secondary effect of being highly effective. As you get bigger and harder tasks done, it becomes easier to take on and complete bigger and harder tasks.

Willpower literature, on the other hand, focuses on ways you can get these bigger and harder things done without having you focus on getting smaller, harder things done first. The effect is a class of personal development consumers who know all about how to increase their willpower but do not apply it in becoming more effective people.

You do not need willpower to succeed. You need systems.

Willpower waxes and wanes. Effective willpower takes time to build, anyway.It’s better to view your willpower as an extra bonus on top of the basic systems that allow you to succeed even when your willpower fails.

Accountability Systems

Losers have goals. Winners have systems.” Scott Adams

Accountability systems leverage your own values against you to make sure that you show up and you perform. Expensive coaching, programs that donate to causes you dislike, and just announcing that you are going to do something to a peer group who will shame you if you fail to perform are all examples.

The important component here is that the accountability system works off ofyour values. Understand what motivates you (and what you want to avoid) to settle on the best system possible.

For example, you may be ashamed of the idea of looking like a flake. You value your pride and your ability to be a person who does what they say they are going to do. You find yourself frustrated by the types of people who say they are going to write a book, launch a business, or lose weight and never actually do that thing. They just talk about doing that thing.

You hold shame and pride in high esteem. To hold yourself accountable to goals, announce them publicly and make it clear that you will execute. Failure to do so relegates you to the class of no-shows and flakes, something you fear.

If you are frugal, put a heavy investment into a coach or a program that forces you to get out more than you put in.

If you care heavily about specific issues, use a program like to donate to a cause you oppose if you fail to hit your goal. You may be devoutly anti-gun and set up your goal that if you do not perform, you donate $500 to the NRA, as an example.

This is why coaching systems work. Coaches are outside individuals who gauge our values, are trained to keep us accountable to them, and can use leverage on us when necessary. Professional coaches come at a cost, putting more skin in the game to motivate ourselves to perform and for the coaches to provide quality work.

Whatever you do, do not rely on your willpower to succeed. Set up systems to win.

This post was originally published at The Mission as part of Find Your Mission.

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