Willpower versus Motivation

People blame their shortcomings on a lack of willpower. But do you treat willpower as if it’s a static personality trait?

..Because it’s not. Willpower is simply a measure of two things:
1. your level of motivation for a particular outcome; and
2. your willingness and ability to take a concrete action in furtherance of that outcome

When you see a cheeseburger, you easily conjure the will to eat it. That’s because it’s salient. It makes your brain cells dance, and you suddenly experience a high level of motivation to just stuff it into your mouth.

When you are highly motivated to do things, suddenly it becomes difficult to NOT do them. So really – your willpower problem can actually be seen as a problem of motivation.

And if you know yourself, and you know the things that really interest you – you can increase your willpower by increasing your motivation. Over time, mundane acts (like exercising) will become a source of familiarity and joy as they become habits engrained in your mind.

Here are just a few ways you can increase your motivation, and thus, your willpower:

  1. Temptation Bundling. Research has shown that coupling highly enjoyable acts with less enjoyable acts can increase your motivation to participate in the less enjoyable acts. For more details, check out my post on temptation bundling. And while you’re at it, check out my Serial Challenge for Gym Haters.
  2. Make Exercising Social. Don’t focus on exercising so hard. Instead, focus on making exercise a fun and social event. Take a dance class with a friend or go for walks with coworkers. It’s not exercise, it’s just fun with friends. (But shhh…it’s also exercise.)
  3. Create Small Goals. Maybe you want to lose 50 pounds. Of course it’s doable. But 50 pounds is a lot of weight, and it’s a very demotivating thought when you’re just starting out. But what if you only wanted to lose 4 pounds? Losing 4 pounds is easy. And if you do it over and over again, you’ll eventually get to 50 before you know it. Set small goals to increase your motivation. It works!! See my post about setting small goals here.
  4. Buy one dress that doesn’t fit. When I first started my weight loss journey, I bought an adorable dress that was several sizes too small. I hung it up, and I promised myself that someday soon I would wear that dress. It was bright yellow, so I noticed it every time I opened my closet. When the dress finally fit, it was incredibly rewarding. Say YES to the dress!
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Summer 2015, the day the yellow dress fit! I’ve lost about another 20 since.

What are some ways you keep your motivation high?

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20 thoughts on “Willpower versus Motivation”

  1. 1. Another great post. Very insightful and relatable.
    2. That dress is AWESOME.
    3. Your hair is even MORE AWESOME, and I’m super jelly.

    Like

      1. Really, that’s really awesome to know. It would be nice to find someone in my area to from a workout group. lol.

        Like

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