Willpower is often toted as being an essential ingredient in staying the course while trying to achieve an objective. Grit your teeth, grunt and sweat it out! Well , that may be helpful when going for a PB with your squats and dead lifts, but when it comes to significant change in any other area of your life, it just doesn’t cut it.
Why is that? It’s because we’re only talking surface level effort. Achieving a substantial goal is going to require a different kind of effort. When we’re taking on a challenging endeavour, you can guarantee it’s going to require more out of us than what we’ve been doing. Whether it’s more of what we’re doing well or something completely different ( and it’s usually the latter ), there will be some resistance at a subconscious level. So making a conscious decision to overcome that resistance just won’t work. Think about it. If that was the case, then we could change just by waking up tomorrow and saying, “I’m going to stop procrastinating today” or “I’m going to stop being impatient today” .
The reason we can’t, is because our habitual thoughts and behaviours are determined at a subconscious level. There are underlying assumptions about ourselves that drive the way we act. We can desire something, even very badly, but as long as we have a negative belief underpinning that, we will be held back. The subconscious is the motor that drives us so it has to be given different instructions.
Science has determined that 40% of our behaviour is performed automatically without even thinking about it. It comes in very handy when breathing, blinking and our hearts beating. Could you imagine having to make conscious effort to do all of those things? We wouldn’t have time for anything else, it would drive us friggin’ mad! However, when we consider personality traits we would like to change, they are habitual as well. We’re literally doing them automatically just like driving a car. Losing our temper too quickly, constantly running late, over eating, procrastinating, etc etc.
Significant behavioural change takes commitment yes, but not superficial “will power”. It takes digging beneath the surface to establish what is behind the behaviour. What are the underlying assumptions driving it, sustaining it. That’s what has to be dealt with first. Pulling those support structures down paves the way to build new behaviours that are more conducive to us being more productive, achieving what we want and having a greater quality of life.