In my book’s introduction, I talk about how to make changes that stick. I knew my method worked, but I didn’t know why it was so important until I read Willpower. I wrote about the book here.
Willpower was a revelation to me because it explained why my approach led to real, positive, lasting change. Knowing from experience I was right had empowered me. Understanding why, took it to a new level.
Baumeister & Tierney explain, and demonstrate by sharing the results of numerous studies, the reason it’s so hard to make changes that stick. Humans have a limited supply of willpower and when we try to make too many changes at the same time, or changes that are too big, we are destined to fail. Thus, my mantra: breaking down your goals into tiny pieces, and working on them one at a time for the 21 days it takes to turn them into a habit.
In a piece last year in the Wall Street Journal, Baumeister said of willpower, or self-control, “…it’s contributed immensely to the success of our species. But I think there’s also the sense that if we had a little more, we would do even better. I call self-control the moral muscle. It’s what creates the capacity for humans to act in certain ways when they don’t want to. So what we need to understand is that we have this marvelous capacity but that it is not unlimited. It fails sometimes. The key is that self-control works through habits. By setting up good habits, you’re not resisting temptation or getting yourself out of jams or fighting the odds, but rather you’re using your self-control to set life up to run on autopilot. Then it runs smoothly, and you can save your willpower to put into more creative endeavors.”
Or as I like to say, the reason it’s so important to turn your goals into habits (which can only happen if you break the goals down into small pieces) is so they stick, and then you can add more habits, which will add up to the large changes you want.
But you have to be patient. It’s not going to happen overnight. You have to believe that’s okay, because it’s far better to spend the next three years creating 52 new habits (one every 21 days) than finding yourself each New Year’s eve listing the same resolutions you did the prior year. Even if you only add half as many new habits, 26 new habits is far more than you otherwise would have.
What is your experience with willpower? Please join the conversation with your comments…