Willpower Won't Get You There!

Why willpower fails every time and what to do instead. 

Have you ever tried to make some powerful, positive changes to your life and after initially succeeding, you frustratingly reverted to your old patterns of behaviour and all your old habits came flooding back? 

And not only did they come flooding back, you made up for some of that lost time! 

Can you relate to this? I have NO doubt that you can. 

We have ALL tried to make some changes in our lives at some point and failed dismally! 

Does that mean that because you failed to make those changes that YOU are a failure? 


Could it mean that you used an ineffective strategy? 

Most likely. 

Watch the video below…

When we decide that we want to make a change in behaviour or in a consistent emotion in our lives, we begin by WILLING ourselves to make the change. 

But using willpower will only address the symptom of the behaviour or the emotion, not the cause. 

For example, you want to lose weight but you still want to eat the foods that got you out of shape in the first place. 

You want to stop smoking but you use it to feel relaxed or less stressed and wonder how you would cope without it. 

You want to stop drinking alcohol, but you also feel the need to unwind after a long day. 

It is the same with how you feel, or your emotions. 

You don’t want to feel sad, depressed or frustrated so you will yourself into thinking positively. 

In all these scenarios, you try to use willpower to overpower those urges for the things that deep down, you still want or crave or the emotions you don’t want to feel. 

Willpower is your most unreliable ally when it comes to making changes. 

You may be able to hang on for a while but sooner than later the system will come crashing down!

You get invited to a tea party and the cake looks delicious. Too delicious for your willpower to resist! So you promise yourself that you will just have a small taste. And we all know where it goes from there! 

Has this ever happened to someone you know? Maybe someone you know very well? 

Or perhaps you are having an incredibly stressful day at work and you take a short break outside where your colleague is having a “smoke break.” 

He offers you a “drag” and before you know it you are smoking your own cigarette again. 

You get overwhelmed by trying to “control your negative thoughts” and all those dark feelings return with a vengeance. 

Why does all of this happen? 

It happens because the deep emotional pain of WILLING yourself past the behaviour or unwanted feeling far outweighs the benefits you are getting from not indulging in them. 

It is not the behaviour or the feeling that we need to address. It is the MEANING behind those things that we need to change. 

As long as you feel that smoking as a way out of stress, you will never quit. 

As long as you find eating fatty, sugary foods as a way to get out of emotional pain and into a state of pleasure, you will never lose weight. 

As long as you associate alcohol as a method to unwind, you will never consider that there might be other ways. 

As long as you continue to give a disempowering meaning to the events of your life, you will never let go of depression, sadness and frustration. 

So what is the solution? Is there away out or are you doomed?

We have to be very mindful of the ways in which we choose to get ourselves out of short term pain and into pleasure. 

It is this short-term focus that gets people into a lot of trouble and ultimately  devastates their lives. 

Are there better ways for us to feel less stressed than smoking a cigarette, eating sugary and fatty foods or drinking alcohol? 

Of course there are! The first thing we really need to ask ourselves is what we want. 

You want to stop smoking but what you really want is a better, healthier way to deal with stress. 

You want to lose weight but what you really want is a more efficient and quicker way to change your emotional state that to use food to make you happy. 

You want to give up alcohol but what you really want is to find a better way to unwind after a long day. 

You don’t want to feel sad, depressed or frustrated but what you really want is to change the meaning of the events that cause you to feel those emotions so that you can be happy and empowered. 

The second thing is to associate as much emotional pain to the behaviours that you want to change. 

Ask yourself pain inducing questions, for example, “What will it cost me ultimately in my life if I don’t stop smoking today?” 

“What price will my family or my children have to pay for my choices?” “What might I have to suffer in terms of my health if I don’t quit today?’ “Am I prepared to die for this disgusting habit?” 

Step three, or the third thing to consider is to find a powerful and compelling alternative to to your current behaviour. This is such a vital step because you don’t want to swop out one bad coping mechanism with another. 

For example, smokers who give up tend to gain weight because they start using food to get themselves out of stress. 

The final step is to condition the new alternative behaviour into your nervous system by associating massive amounts of pleasure to it. 

Ask yourself pleasure inducing questions to reinforce your new behaviour. Ask questions such as, “What will I gain by adopting this new alternate behaviour?” “How will my life have improved in a year, two years or even five years from today?” “How will my life improve today?” 

Getting leverage on yourself by changing what you associate pain and pleasure to and conditioning your new behaviour into your nervous system, will go right to the cause of your challenge and eliminate all your symptomatic behaviour. 

Be warned that this is not a “one hit wonder” process. it requires focus and reinforcement. If you have made it painful enough, if you have big enough reasons “why” you can always find the “how.” 


I am a PEAK Performance Life Coach Trainer, Author, Speaker and all round lover of anything to to with personal growth and development.
I am personally and deeply committed to the journey of constant and never ending improvement in every area of my life.
I am as committed to contributing to and making a difference in the lives of others.
I have experienced first hand how strategically integrating all the principles that I share here can profoundly impact the quality of people’s lives. 
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