Aug 01, 2008
Willpower is your ability to set a course of action and say, “Engage!”
Willpower provides an intensely powerful yet temporary boost. Think of it as a one-shot thruster. It burns out quickly, but if directed intelligently, it can provide the burst you need to overcome inertia and create momentum.
Willpower is the spearhead of self-discipline. To use a World War II analogy, willpower would be D-Day, the Normandy Invasion. It was the gigantic battle that turned the tide of the war and got things moving in a new direction, even though it took another year to reach VE Day (Victory in Europe). To make that kind of effort every day of the war would have been impossible.
Willpower is a concentration of force. You gather up all your energy and make a massive thrust forward. You attack your problems strategically at their weakest points until they crack, allowing you enough room to maneuver deeper into their territory and finish them off.
The application of willpower includes the following steps:
Choose your objective
Create a plan of attack
Execute the plan
With willpower you may take your time implementing steps 1 and 2, but when you get to step 3, you’ve got to hit it hard and fast.
Don’t try to tackle your problems and challenges in such a way that a high level of willpower is required every day. Willpower is unsustainable. If you attempt to use it for too long, you’ll burn out. It requires a level of energy that you can maintain only for a short period of time… in most cases the fuel is spent within a matter of days.
Use Willpower to Create Self-Sustaining Momentum
So if willpower can only be used in short, powerful bursts, then what’s the best way to apply it? How do you keep from slipping back into old patterns once the temporary willpower blast is over?
The best way to use willpower is to establish a beachhead, such that further progress can be made with far less effort than is required of the initial thrust. Remember D-Day — once the Allies had established a beachhead, the road ahead was much easier for them. It was still challenging to be sure, especially with the close quarters fighting among hedge rows in France before the Rhino Tanks began plowing through them, but it was a lot easier than trying to maintain the focus, energy, and coordination of a full scale beach invasion every single day for another year.
So the proper use of willpower is to establish that beachhead — to permanently change the territory itself such that it’s easier to continue moving on. Use willpower to reduce the ongoing need for such a high level of sustained force.
Don’t use willpower to attack your biggest problem directly. Use willpower to attack the environmental and social obstacles that perpetuate the problem. Establish a beachhead first, and then fortify your position (i.e. turn it into a habit, such as by doing a 30-Day Challenge). Habit puts action on autopilot, such that very little willpower is required for ongoing progress, allowing you to practically coast towards your goal.