You Don't Need Willpower. You Need Motivation. Here's How To Get It.
As part of the New Year’s process, you set a goal. Maybe it‘s losing 35 pounds. Or writing a book. Perhaps it’s starting a business.
You created a plan. You made a vision board. You even started writing affirmations.
You’re fired up.
And things were going great. You got up every morning, eager to dig in and get to work. For a couple of weeks. It’s easy to stay motivated those first weeks.
But one morning the alarm goes off and you don’t want to get up. It sounds much nicer to stay in the warm, cozy bed and catch up on your sleep.
Or maybe you’ve been going strong for a few months. But you’re getting discouraged because you think you’re not gaining any traction.
You’ve lost the motivation to get up and work towards being a billionaire entrepreneur with platinum selling records while running 20 miles a day and serving on six nonprofit boards yet still finding time to mentor youth.
You’re tired. You’re discouraged.
If only you had more willpower you think. Gosh, your neighbor is steadily losing weight. The guy in your mastermind finished his next book. And that influencer on Instagram has started yet another business venture.
All around you, you see people hustling, working their goals, accomplishing things. And you wish you had their motivation. Their willpower to get things done.
Well, here’s an idea.
Maybe you’re thinking about motivation and willpower all wrong.
I recently read The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win by Jeff Haden.
In it, Haden argues that staying motivated to reach your goals isn’t a matter of willpower.
The key to staying motivated is to set yourself up with “small, frequent, repeat successes.”
Why You Need to Set Yourself Up For Success
Haden’s idea looks like this.
success > motivation > more success > more motivation > more success
The more successes you have, the more motivated you are to continue. The more you continue, the more successful you are, and the more motivated you get. The cycle feeds on itself.
Let’s use writing as an example.
You want to be a writer. Or at least improve your writing skills so you can create more and better content for the blog which drives traffic to your website.
So you follow Jeff Goins’ method of 500 words a day. Each day that you write 500 words you mark it on the calendar. You complete several days of 500 words a day and you’re feeling great. Those Xs are lining up and you don’t want to break the chain. So you’re motivated to continue. You keep writing 500 words a day. This goes on for a while. As you’re writing those 500 words a day, you’re can see the improvement in your writing.
You’re feeling good about putting in those 500 words a day. You’re creating lots of content in the process and your skills are improving. So you keep going. The more you do it, just 500 words, the better you get and the more successful you feel, the more motivated you are to continue.
Success > motivation > more success > more motivation > more success > more motivation
How Do You Set Yourself Up For Success
Haden goes into greater detail in the book but basically, you set up routines, systems, and processes that support you or get you to your goal.
(He uses the words routines, systems, and processes often throughout the book because that is the foundation to success.)
How do you create routines to set yourself up?
Let’s use health as an example.
You want to get healthier and take better care of yourself. One of the things you’ve decided to focus on is drinking more water.
To make the math easy, let’s say you want to drink 100 oz of water each day. You’re already in the habit of drinking 3-10 oz cups of decaf coffee a day. You also have a 10 oz cup of chamomile tea every evening.
Your current routine accounts for 40 oz of liquid. So you only need to increase that by 60 oz.
You need to create a plan or a routine that tells you when to drink the water. That eliminates decision fatigue. You won’t have to think about when to drink it or how much to drink each time to hit your 100 oz goal.
You eat three meals a day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You decide you’ll drink at least 1-10 oz glass of water with each meal.
Just 30 more oz to account for.
You decide you will drink a 1-10 oz glass first thing in the morning. You can drink a 2nd 10 oz glass mid-morning. And a 3rd 10-oz glass mid-afternoon.
You’ve created a plan to drink 100 oz of water each day. You’ve set up the process, the routine that will help you succeed.
Each time you drink a glass of water, it’s a tiny success. And each day you drink the 100 oz, you’re motivated to continue because you are succeeding at the goal, you set to improve your health.
Success > motivation > more success > more motivation > more success > more motivation.
But Haden says there’s something else you must do to stay motivated.
Forget the Goal
Haden says if you focus too much on the endgame, you’ll get overwhelmed and discouraged.
Yes, you’re having small, repeat successes but if you’re not careful in your thinking, you’ll feel as if you are not making progress.
Let’s pretend you want to get your whole house organized.
You’ve found a program that fits your lifestyle. You like the leader. You feel good about the process the program uses.
The program advocates that you spend 15 minutes a day decluttering. That sounds doable to you, what with a full-time job, a side hustle, kids, family, friends, and all the other obligations that come with life. You can manage 15 minutes a day.
So for a couple of weeks, 15 minutes a day works great. You’ve been able to fit it in. But you’re getting discouraged. At just 15 minutes a day, you’re still working on your kitchen.
(Hey, you remember the bride and groom champagne glasses someone gave you as a wedding present—was it Aunt Maude or your college roommate, Susie? Well, you found them in a box in the back corner of your pantry. You’d forgotten all about them)
Anyway, 15 minutes a day, 3 weeks later, and you still have to tackle 2 bathrooms, the dining room, the office, the master bedroom, the kids’ rooms, the guest room, the garage, the basement. Oh God, the attic.
You will never finish the whole house.
THAT is why you don’t focus on the end goal.
Instead, you focus on the process.
Decluttering your house for just 15 minutes a day. Every day.
And if you follow the process consistently, you will get to the end. And your house will get organized.
But you have to forget the goal and focus on the process.
Those are the two key ideas in the book but Haden covers so much more.
He teaches you how to create a successful process so you can reach your goals.
You’ll learn how to use the words “I don’t” instead of “I can’t”. And it works.
You’ll learn the real requirements of goal-setting. Spoiler, it’s not SMART.
You’ll learn how to have the most productive day or week ever.
You can even learn how Haden lost 10 lbs in 30 days.
The book is called The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win. It’s by Jeff Haden. You can find his website here. Find The Motivation Myth at any bookstore.