Updated: May 20, 2021
How to follow through on those New Year's resolutions.
"We may think there’s willpower involved, but more likely…change is due to WANTPOWER. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me, in preference to the person I am now.” -George Sheehan
How many of you made New Year’s resolutions this year? How many of you are still with it? For me, March used to be that magical month where all old New Year’s resolutions went to die. I eventually stopped making them because when they fizzled out, I felt like I'd lacked the willpower to succeed.
What’s the first thing you think of when you think of “willpower?” I think of dieting-needing to do something, rather than wanting to do it. George Sheehan, the first fifty year-old to run the mile in under five minutes, said "We may think there’s willpower involved, but more likely…change is due to WANTPOWER. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me, in preference to the person I am now.”
What is WANTPOWER? Simply stated, it’s our motivations, perceptions, and beliefs. Sometimes we may not be as aware of our true intentions as we think. Often, it's more about an internal shift in our perceptions of ourselves than the rewards we're seeking. To illustrate this, let's try an exercise. Start by writing down one of your goals in the sentence, “I want to ______ because I want to______ and fill in the blanks. Let’s try it with my diet example. “I want to lose weight because I want to look good in skinny jeans.” Now take the last part of that sentence and repeat the process. “I want to look good in skinny jeans because I want to look attractive.” "I want to look attractive because it makes me feel good." Keep repeating the pattern until you run out of “whys.” There's your WANTPOWER. See what we’ve done here? We’ve flipped the focus from the external rewards of meeting the goal, to the internal motivation for pursuing it in the first place.
One of the other major reasons we fail to reach our goals is because we aren’t aware of those beliefs that are unconscious-those “critical inner voices.” I call mine “Yes But.” When I first started thinking about starting my own business, the first thing that came to mind was, “Yes but Cindy, you don’t have the stamina anymore to start your own business.” That thought kept me stuck until I consciously recognized it and named it. Amazingly, I realized that voice wasn't even mine, and when I realized that the belief holding me back was someone else’s, I was able to consciously replace it with one that more accurately reflected my reality. “Yes, it’ll be hard, but I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying.” Old “Yes But” still pops up now and again, but now, I don’t let her fears derail my goals.
These are just a couple of the ways I've found to tap into my WANTPOWER. Invest in exploring ways to tap into yours. Whereas willpower creates deficit thinking that sabotages our goals and even self-esteem, WANTPOWER encourages growth, confidence, and commitment. So, if you want to make a lasting change, ditch the willpower. Find your WANTPOWER.