Most people think that you need a lot of willpower to achieve anything meaningful in this life. But in reality, if you rely on willpower to achieve your goals, you will likely not achieve much. You need something better. Here's what.
By the time you start any process to achieve a goal, you're likely very motivated. And that abundance of enthusiasm and motivation will color your perspective of what you will do when the hard days come. Even if you've attempted and failed the same process in the past, you're still likely to think that this time it's going to be different. This time you're just going to power through the hard days. Sheer willpower will get you through.
Unfortunately, that is very unlikely to happen.
Willpower is like lighter fluid. Lighter fluid works great to start a fire, because it burns really hot really fast. But for that very same reason, lighter fluid does not sustain a fire. You need to feed the fire a more constant and more powerful source of energy for that.
In the same way, to achieve success, you need some willpower as a catalyst. You need to break comfortable patterns and make the necessary changes in your life so that you can achieve what you want. But you can't rely on willpower to keep you going. If you do that, you will soon burn out.
If, for example, you're trying to get healthier by eating less junk food and going to the gym more, you cannot rely on willpower to make that happen consistently. Because there is going to come a day and a time when you have so much else going on, you're really tired and you just can't seem to muster the willpower to drag yourself to the gym; or you just can't bring yourself to order the salad instead of the burger in the restaurant.
And that's when you fail.
So, you need something better.
You need to set your life change up in such a way that it can survive even on your worst days. That is setting yourself up for success.
How do you do that?
You set yourself up for success by creating a system that will make it stupid easy to follow through.
The reason people think you need willpower, is because willpower is needed to make the right decisions. But setting yourself up for success, is creating a system through which making the right decision is a piece of cake.
There are three ways to accomplish this.
1) No decision at all
The easiest way to make the right decision consistently is by turning it into a habit. Like the saying goes: motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.
You probably don't have to motivate yourself to brush your teeth. Or to go to work every morning. It's not even a conscious decision anymore. You just do it, because that's what you do.
That's how habits work.
The power of habit can almost not be overstated. So come up with a way that you can incorporate your life changes in such a way that you can turn them into a habit.
2) Easy decisions
Secondly, make sure that the change you're making in your life is big enough to be meaningful, but small enough so that you can keep up with it every time; even when life gets in the way.
It's easy to not eat junk food when it's not even in the house because you never buy it. It's easier to keep up with working out everyday if you have a home gym. It's easy to keep up with reading every day if you actually enjoy the books you're reading.
3) Great incentives
Lastly, you want to create an environment for yourself where you're going to face great incentives, consistently.
For example: if your goal is to be more active and exercise more, you could consider joining the local basketball team. That way, you will not only enjoy the social aspect every time you go, but people will also wonder where you are if you don't go.
If your goal is to write every day, start a blog and publicly commit to blogging every day for a set period of time. This is a great way to use peer pressure to your advantage.
A smart person once said that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. So make sure you set yourself up for success: create a system of habits, easy decisions and great incentives. If you do this, you can achieve any goal without having to rely on a little spark of willpower every step of the way.