It Takes More than Willpower

Home » Other » It Takes More than Willpower

Many of us have the belief that, with a little more willpower, we would accomplish our goals and dreams. If only it was so easy! The reality of change is that it’s difficult, and we don’t recognize that it often takes more than willpower to produce the change.

Let’s understand the process. We’re dissatisfied with the status quo – our weight, our job, our relationship, etc.; we decide to make a change – we visualize the better position we want, and then develop a plan so we can go “from here (current position) to there (future position)”. We embark on our path, with good intentions and assume that the energy and dedication we started it will not change (wrong!) and that other factors will not intervene (and they do).

Marshall Goldsmith, one of the top executive coaches has published many books relevant to this issue. One makes the point in its title (and content): What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. His newest book, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be, addresses why great intentions lose their power over time: because the situational “triggers” that affect our behaviors change over time! As he notes, “we are superior planners and inferior doers”. To achieve the plans we make, we need to structure triggers into our lives.

Two examples that demonstrate this point are Weight Watchers (WW) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Both recognize that you need ongoing support to keep you on the original path. WW starts you off with a diet and fitness program. You stay focused on it not just with the initial intention and willpower by also by having social support (peers) keep you focused on continuing the behaviors (e.g., monitoring weight in a group context. Similarly, AA uses the meetings and a partner-sponsor to keep you on the sobriety track.

The lesson: When you set goals make sure you also map out the process of gaining triggers, in the form of social support, reminders, etc.) that will keep you on the track to achieve success. Heed this advice, now, as you make your New Year’s resolutions! Also, share your experiences as you structured use triggers to keep you on track.