Published on May 28th, 2013 | by Jason Goldberg
You Don’t Need Willpower. You Need A Step Ladder!
Hey all you creatives and creators! This is Jason Goldberg and YOU are watching MEometryTV, THE place to be to yearn more, learn more and earn more from your life and business.
So how many of you think you have amazing amounts of willpower? That faced with a slice of gourmet cheesecake and a plate of brussel sprouts, could CONSISTENTLY make the choice of downing the green grenades over the luscious desert? Well, for me at least, I could probably do it once in a while but at the end of the day, I would either fold immediately OR, choose the sprouts, then wait until no one was looking and go back for the cheesecake. For my entire life, struggling with my weight, trying to stay focused and on task in the midst of all kinds of demands in my work and academic life and attempting to forgo my Reality TV show watching in favor of reading a good book, WILLPOWER has always been the drill sergeant of the mind that I would praise in the good times and curse in the bad. But science now shows that WILLPOWER alone, will not always allow you to be successful at navigating through life’s challenges and opportunities.
Not only are our decisions made and justified by a complex combo of chemicals in the brain, hormones, heredity, and habits BUT this Willpower we seem to want to rely on so much for the answer is a finite resource! You are depleting your stores of willpower all day every day. Whether it’s the delicious dilemma I mentioned a minute ago, deciding to stay on task at work instead of playing fruit ninja on your phone or going to the gym after work instead of going home and plopping down on the couch, willpower is being expended and your ability to use it quickly diminishes as the day goes on. Don’t get me wrong, self-control and self-regulation are VERY important BUT you need something else to back that up to keep you on track and to allow you to create habits that contribute to your well-being and happiness instead of draining you and leaving you feeling like a failure because sometimes you just don’t have the “willpower” to follow through.
Legendary psychologist William James once wrote that humans are merely a “bundle of habits”. These habits are often performed automatically and unconsciously (sometimes to our benefit, other times not so much), so that brushing your teeth, driving to work, logging into your computer or taking out the trash do not tax our brains and allow us the brainpower required to do more complex tasks. In other words, things (habits) that are second nature, are typically very easy to get done without much thought. SO wouldn’t it stand to reason that shifting tasks that require the conscious use willpower into those that are products of habitual action, would be extremely beneficial to making progress towards our ultimate goals, whatever they may be? Show of hands? (RAISE HAND, COUNT HANDS UP)…GOOD!
There is thing called activation energy Me-high Chick-sent-me-high, one of the world’s leading researchers on positive psychology, talks about activation energy as the mental and physical energy required to jump start your taking action in a particular direction. The problem is that most of us, myself included, will take the path of least resistance and make THAT our habit. The remote control is right there next to the couch…the cookies are staring at me in the pantry…my friends keep posting hilarious pictures on facebook…those are all so easy to engage with, that the activation energy required is nearly none and so it goes, I end up sitting on the couch doing my best cookie monster impression spitting chocolate chunks around the living room as I crack up at funny cat pics. Not exactly my finest moment.
SO, how do we create the positive change in our lives that we are all seeking and ingrain new and empowering habits into our everyday life. The key is to lower the barriers for the stuff you want to do and raise the barriers for the things you DON’T want to do! This is a concept that I was first introduced to by Shawn Achor, author and positive psychology expert, and it has worked wonders for me.
A quick example from my own life. I’m a snacker. My vice, Cheez-its. I eat pretty healthy most of the time and so this is one of my “cheat foods” that I keep in the house. Now, I could remove them from the house entirely but that would only mean that when I’m out driving around, I would probably feel so deprived that I would pop into a grocery store and down a whole box of crackers in a single sitting. No Bueno. BUT I realized that having them in the house, in the pantry, with easy access, was making them disappear much faster than they should. The pantry is right next to the garage door so coming home from work and reaching out for the box was SUPER easy to do! Before I knew it, 20 minutes had passed and half the box was gone! I couldn’t rely on my willpower alone and so I created barriers to back up any lapses in self-control. I took the snacks and put them on the highest shelf of our kitchen cabinets above our stove. In order for me to reach them, I would have to go into the garage and get a step ladder, come back in, open and set the ladder down, climb up and get down the box of crackers, pour a serving into a small cup (that I would also have to get before scaling the ladder), then put the box back AND put the ladder away ALL BEFORE I could enjoy the snack! Meanwhile, I had carrot sticks on the first shelf of the fridge in front of me that essentially had NO barriers and were SUPER easy to grab so sometimes, when it just felt like too much work to get the crackers, I would just eat the carrots instead. See, there was a minimal amount of willpower in play here and instead it was a question of “how much do I really want these crackers and am I willing to do all of this work to get them!?!” sometimes the answer is yes and that’s fine, sometimes it was no and that was fine too. The end result, the snacks are lasting WAY longer, I don’t feel deprived and I don’t have to deplete my willpower stores or sit on my hands to take the path that I know is best for me.
There are countless other examples of ways this can help, such as having your running shoes next to your bed so when you get up in the morning they are there waiting for you instead of you having to do extra work to go elsewhere in the house to get them, or taking the batteries out of the remote when you are done watching television and putting them in another room while simultaneously leaving a book next to the couch so the next time you come home and plop down, you end up taking the path of least resistance (the book) instead of doing the extra work of going to retrieve the batteries to watch TV.
Having this knowledge levels the playing field so it’s no longer about who has more willpower, but instead about who can be more creative about creating the space and barriers needed in order to make good decisions and build positive habits. The less activation energy you need to build and maintain a habit, the more likely the habit will stick! Give it a try!
As you know, we yearn, learn and earn exponentially more when we share our gifts with each other. I want to hear from you, so leave a comment below to tell me what habits you have created or gotten rid of using this method or if you have having trouble trying to figure out what types of barriers to set up, share with us and we will help you get creative. If you loved this video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel be sure to share it with your friends. Also, don’t forget to head over to MEometry.com to sign up for exclusive email updates and to get insights that I only share with my most engaged peeps!
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