Willpower Doesn’t Work.

Trying to make a big physical change is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get to hitting your first pull-up or to drop ten pounds…the work is much more than you’d like it to be. I don’t want to tell you not to try, but chances are you’re going to be just as successful as you were last time. If you’re like most people, that’s bad news.

Each year, millions of people worldwide declare their desire to make a change as we move into January. They make an attempt at the change, but they make it backward, dooming themselves to failure. What do I mean by backward? I mean they try to change their physical makeup without changing their mindset or behaviors.

James Clear has a great description of how we set it up backward in his ebook Change Your Habits. He shows that most of the goals we set are appearance or performance based goals, which are fine, as long as you change your identity first. Check out the graphic below.

Excellence is a result of habit. Think of Ted Williams as a kid trying to get anyone and everyone in his neighborhood to pitch baseballs to him. Think of Ted Williams hitting so many balls he broke his bat, and then continuing to practice with rolled-up newspapers late into each summer night. By the time he was old enough to play professional baseball, he’d hit more balls than any veteran in the league.

We see the result, and we think that getting motivated is the key, that if we put in a few weeks of “Rocky-like” workouts we’ll somehow be able to shortcut our way to magical results. Look at it this way: think of how many people you know and understand that each one of them has something they’d like to improve about their body. Now, think of how many of the hundreds of people you know are successful in doing so. Depressing isn’t it? It’s because they chase the result instead of the process.

Last month was the big chance to win the Powerball jackpot of $1.3 billion. I knew many people who bought tickets hoping that they’d be the lucky winner, even though they were 30 times more likely to be elected president of the U.S. than to win the money. The result is sexy, the process is not.

So what is the process? Start with how you view yourself. Most of us have a voice inside our heads that rationalizes bad behavior and tells us that we are somehow different enough from everyone else that we get to play by different rules…that “x” is harder for us than for other people, and therefore we get a break and it’s OK that we don’t succeed.

“It’s harder for me to work out because I have kids.”

“I have an injury, so I have to take it easy.”

“I don’t have the same kind of willpower that you do.”

If you can’t break free of the view that you’re a snacker, or a beer drinker, or a smoker, or someone who doesn’t exercise, you’re going to have a hard time doing those things. On the flip side, once you decide you are one of those things, the process becomes easy.

Willpower doesn’t work. Motivation doesn’t work. Changing the little things does.