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Why You Shouldn’t Always Rely on Willpower to Be Successful

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We’ve all needed to rely on sheer willpower at some point in our lives to stop us from doing something we don’t really want to. It might be:

  • To not use substances at a social event
  • To not eat chocolate in January when we’re fresh into our new years’ resolutions
  • To not go into the shop and buy the cake that we’ve seen in the window when walking by
  • To say no if we’re offered a cigarette
  • To not do something when our friends are doing it.

The moment we’re faced with a decision – ‘do I or don’t I’, is quite pivotal. A moment where we can strengthen that habitual thought/the urge that is driven by our lower brain, or a moment where we’ve historically drawn on our willpower to not ‘do it’.

What we may have found is that we’ve been able to use our willpower and behave if you like, in the way that we want to or in a way that helps us keep on track with our goals. Of course, this is amazing and it is a true sign of that strength we often don’t give ourselves enough credit for.

My willpower is tested if I know there is chocolate or in particular, biscuits are in the house. I can easily polish off a whole packet of biscuits – dunking two-at-a-time in a hot drink until I’ve eaten them all!! To deal with that, I remind myself how I feel after I’ve eaten them – bloated, lethargic and regretting eating them in that short period of time.

I think it’s more a case that I say to myself – ‘I’m going to enjoy those biscuits’ as opposed to ‘I really shouldn’t eat them, but I will.’ It is also recognising that I most probably hadn’t eaten biscuits for the couple of months previously so, I need to recognise the control I do have.

“Willpower is the basis of perseverance.” – Napoleon Hill

How to stop bad habits

Over a decade I worked with many individuals who used alcohol, drugs, and other substances on a daily basis. One consistent part of my approach was helping people to realise what they had achieved. For example, if someone I was working with had initially been using their substance every single day, we would always spend time recognising the changes that person had made i.e. using the substance once-per-week, or using via a different and safer route. (So that’s 6 days that we haven’t used – what’s the next step now for you?).

This would be similar for a nicotine smoker who had smoked 20 a day for years and has achieved abstinence for 2 months, before a lapse or relapse. There has been a change and it’s important to recognise it. 

If we affirm ourselves, recognise and notice what we are doing as individuals, as opposed to what we’re not doing – this is powerful in itself. Why shouldn’t we be kind to ourselves? We are quite often our biggest critic after all.

Why you shouldn’t solely rely on willpower

In addition to those affirmations that we can give ourselves and show recognition to ourselves, I wanted to spend some time considering willpower. Although it is a great resource for us to draw on – we are not able to rely on it solely.

This is because it’s something that overrides the initial thought; if you like, we draw on it to hijack our initial thinking of let’s say ‘go on just have one more cigarette it’ll sort you out.’ So, in a sense we’re creating an extra layer of thinking to get us out of the problem. In fact, we need less thinking.

This is more likely/more achievable when we are feeling strong but if we’re not feeling so strong in a given situation i.e. feeling hungry, tired or after an extremely challenging day, willpower is the wrong tool to use.

When is willpower helpful?

Willpower is helpful in that we can break habits through being extremely disciplined, drawing on our resourcefulness; quite often though, this can lead to replacing that habit with another habit at some point. Examples that i’ve seen include – 

  •       Swapping cannabis with alcohol
  •       Swapping smoking for eating chocolate
  •       Swapping cocaine for gambling

Willpower is not always possible, particularly if we have habits that always seem compelling to engage with.

“It’s not that some people have the willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.” – James Gordon

As I’ve mentioned, when we’re feeling positive and strong, we do have the energy that is required for willpower to be effective. However, as we’re not always feeling strong, the willpower is too inconsistent – we don’t always have the energy for the extra layers of thinking to get ourselves out of a problem.

The more powerful understanding is that the thought we have in the first instance is just a thought. The thought in its entirety will not hurt you, me, or anyone else. It might look like it will, but it won’t.

Isn’t that such a good thing to know? How encouraging for us to know it won’t hurt us – it can’t make us do anything. It is only what we make of the thought, how we relate to it and what energy we give it.

So, using the word will-power again, with the focus on the ‘power’ aspect, there is nothing for us to ‘over-power.’ There is nothing for us to defeat. The thoughts are harmless, they’re formless and they will come and go. 

We don’t need to act, it is an illusion that we think we do need to behave in a particular way. The truth is, we don’t need to do anything – we’re the ones in control. By developing our understanding of our experiences and really seeing how it works, our inner wisdom will come through. That inner voice will guide us to the many other options that we have, not needing to rely on sheer willpower to do the job for us each and every time.

What about this article resonated most with you and why? Share your thoughts with us below!

Dave Knight helps to change lives through a conversation that guides people back towards their innate health and wellbeing. With a background in mental health, addictions, business and sport, his time is being dedicated to educating people through Articles, his Bulletproof Yourself products, 1:1 work with clients; small groups, as well as articles. The focus of the work is to help people feel bulletproof against any area of challenge in their lives.

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Emile Steenveld Speaker and Coach

Some people seem to naturally know how to effectively communicate in a group setting. They can express themselves clearly and listen attentively without dominating the conversation.

Being a powerful communicator is important for several reasons, including building and maintaining relationships, achieving goals, resolving conflicts, improving productivity, leading and influencing others, advancing in your career, expressing yourself more confidently and authentically, and improving your mental and emotional well-being. Effective communication is an essential life skill that can benefit you in all aspects of your life.

But, don’t worry if you don’t naturally possess this skill, as effective communication is something that can be developed with practice, planning and preparation.
 

1.  Listen actively: Practice active listening by giving your full attention to the speaker and responding to what they are saying.

 

2. Use “I” statements: Speak from your own perspective and avoid placing blame or making accusations.

 

3. Avoid assumptions: Don’t make assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling.

 

4. Be clear: Express your thoughts and feelings clearly and concisely by getting to the point and avoid using jargon or overly complex language.

 

5. Show empathy: Show that you understand and care about the other person’s feelings.

 

6. Offer valuable insights: When speaking in a group, provide a valuable takeaway or actionable item that people can walk away with.

 

7. Be an active listener: Listen attentively and respond accordingly, incorporating your points into the conversation.

 

8. Choose the right time: Pick the most opportune time to speak to ensure that you have the group’s attention and can deliver your message without interruption.

 

9. Be the unifying voice: Step in and unify the group’s thoughts to calm down the discussion and insert your point effectively.

 

10. Keep responses concise: Keep responses short and to the point to show respect for others’ time.

 

11. Avoid unnecessary comments: Avoid commenting on everything and only speak when you have something important to say.

 

12. Cut the fluff: Avoid being long-winded and get straight to the point.

 

13. Prepare ahead of time: Sort out your points and practice them before speaking in a group.

 

14. Smile and be positive: Smile and nod along as others speak, to build a positive relationship and be respected when it’s your turn to speak.

 

15. Take responsibility: Take responsibility for your own actions and feelings.

 

16. Ask questions: Ask questions to clarify any confusion or misunderstandings.

 

17. Avoid interrupting: Allow the other person to finish speaking without interruption.

 

18. Practice active listening: Repeat what the other person said to ensure you have understood correctly.

 

19. Use your body language too: Use nonverbal cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language to convey your message and build rapport.

 

20. Be aware of the tone of your voice: it should be calm and assertive, not aggressive or passive.

 

By keeping these tips in mind, you can improve your communication skills and become a more powerful communicator, which can help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a more fulfilling life.

I you want to learn how to become more confident in life then you can join my weekly mentorship calls and 40+ online workshops at AweBliss.com so you can master your life with more success.

 
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