If you want to make any permanent change in your life, willpower won’t get you there.
Whether you want to get healthier, stop using social media so much, improve your relationships, be happier, write a book, or start a business — willpower won’t help you with any of these things.
Personal progress and achieving success are best approached like you’re overcoming addiction. Because, quite literally, that’s what you’re doing. As human-beings, we all have addictions.
I openly admit being addicted to social media, my current belief system, my comfort zone, and my excuses. I’m also addicted to a lot of other behaviors that contradict my goals.
We are all addicted. And the cognitive dissonance is numbing.
If you’re serious about the changes you want to make, willpower won’t be enough. Quite the opposite. Willpower is what’s holding you back.
Willpower is a broken approach to thriving and success
“Willpower is for people who are still uncertain about what they want to do.” — Helia
Clearly, the research on willpower explains human behavior. But only on the surface level — the effects. The very fact that willpower is required comes from two more fundamental sources — the causes:
1. You don’t know what you want, and are thus internally conflicted.
2. You haven’t committed to something and created conditions that facilitate your commitment.
What do you really want?
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
If your life requires willpower, you haven’t fully determined what you want. Because once you make a decision, the internal debate is over. As Michael Jordan has said, “Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.”
After you decide what you want, the decision is made. Thus, all future decisions regarding that matter have also been made. No questions.
So, are you serious about this? Or are you just talking? Are you still on the fence, or have you decided?
Until you decide, you’ll be required to use willpower, and will continue making minimal progress.
Are you committed?
What is commitment?
How do you know if you’re truly committed to something?
When it comes to achieving goals, commitment involves:
-Making it public
-Setting a timeline
-Installing several forms of feedback/accountability
-Removing or altering everything in your environment that opposes your commitment
-If you’re truly committed to something, in your mind, it’s as though you’ve already succeeded. All doubt and disbelief are gone.
If you’re committed to running a marathon, you’re going to put everything in place to make sure it happens. You’re not going to leave it up to chance.
You’re going to start by signing up for a race (investment). You’re going to make it public (phase one of accountability). You’re going to get a running partner who holds you accountable. You’re going to track your progress (feedback) and account your progress to your accountability partner. Lastly, you’re going to remove things in your life that keep you from running.
Commitment means you build external defense systems around your goals. Your internal resolve, naked to an undefended and opposing environment is not commitment.
Throughout my doctoral research as an organizational psychologist, the singular concept I’ve focused my studies on is what I call, “The Point of No Return.” This is the moment it becomes easier to move toward your goals than to avoid them. Actually, it’s the instant that pursuing your highest ambitions becomes your only option.
How does this work?
Primarily, it happens in the form of an intense investment, which forces you to move forward out of compulsion.
Once invested to the point you must go forward, your identity and complete orientation toward your objective changes.
Because you must go forward, you’re no longer confused about what you need to do. You’re no longer uncertain if you’re going to act. You have already acted, and now you need to make good on that action. And there’s several psychological reasons why you need to make good on that action:
-To not look like an idiot (although this isn’t very powerful)
-To justify your investment
-To be consistent with the behaviors you’ve performed (hint: your identity follows your behavior, not necessarily the --other way around despite “common wisdom”)
-Because you truly want to achieve a particular goal, and you’ve now created external conditions that will eventuate in a self-fulfilling prophecy
Here’s my favorite narrative from my Master’s Thesis, where I interviewed several entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs. The main difference? Entrepreneurs have had some form of “Point of No Return” experience, whereas wannabe entrepreneurs haven’t created such experiences.
One of the people I interviewed was a 17-year-old kid who wanted to sell shoes. He and his “partner” — one of his high school friends — invested $10,000 into a shipment of shoes. Here’s how he describes his “Point of No Return”:
"Yeah, once we had all of our money in the same inventory it was all or nothing. That really scared me, just knowing that it was like do or die. I had to sell the shoes. You couldn’t turn back, you couldn’t just get rid of them and get cash back, you had to go forward."
My follow-up question was, “Did anything change after this moment?”
Here’s what he said:
"After that, once I realized that we were truly going and everything, I think it really just opened me up to what I was able to do. At that point, I was like okay, I actually started a company, I’ve invested in it and now I need to run this thing. That’s when I think I really saw that I was running the company. It really changed my leadership role, I think, with my partners."
Once you’ve passed your point of no return, you’ve fully bought into your own vision. You’re committed. Your role, and thus identity, change. You’ve removed alternatives that were nothing more than distractions anyways. You’ve forced your own hand and now must move in the direction you want to go. You’re all in.
What about you…
Are you invested?
Your level of success can almost directly be measured to how personally invested you are.
Investment Creates Commitment
Only those who are invested are truly committed.
Only those who are committed are willing to change themselves to uphold their decision.
The moment you invest yourself in your decision, you are telling yourself that you’re serious about this.
You’re no longer just thinking.
There’s something strange and magical that happens when someone financially invests in themselves. When they invest their money into their dreams.
The investment is almost always what triggers a point of no return moment. It’s that point in time when a person becomes truly committed. Sometimes even over-committed. Hence, it’s a “point of no return.”
Once you make an investment in your decision, you solidify your new identity. Your role changes. You become a leader of the cause you’re about.
You’ve got skin in the game.
You’re no longer watching your own life from the sidelines.
You’ve decided to jump into the game and actually do something.
By investing in yourself, you’ll deepen and intensify your “why.” And when your why is strong enough, you’ll figure out how.
Making a big investment in yourself is a leap of faith, because in that moment there feels to be no guarantee that you’ll recoup that investment.
Little did you know that the very act of making the investment is more powerful than what you’ll actually get out of that investment. By “signing that check,” you’ll change.
The investment itself is a psychological leap. It will change your identity and orientation toward life, toward yourself, and toward your future.
Because most people don’t make powerful decisions, they don’t understand the necessity and power of investing in themselves and in their decisions.
But if you make a bold and powerful decision, you’ll need to invest a lot into that thing.
If you want to be the best in the world at what you do, you’ll need to invest big. Because most of the people you’ll work with won’t have your best interests at heart.
They won’t be operating at the level of your decision.
They won’t get it.
So you’ll need to build a team around you who won’t let you settle for less than the decision you’ve made.
The more invested you are, the more committed you’ll be to your decision. Obviously, you must be wise.You may have family to care for. You don’t want to put your loved one’s in jeopardy.
But you need to continually be making steps to evolve and elevate yourself. This will require a new way of thinking and being.
You’ll need to think differently and work differently.
You’ll need to learn what you need to learn, and perform work that starts making a splash. Your initial investment will be your time. Then, you’ll need to invest whatever you can squeeze into education and mentoring. You’ll then need to immediately apply what you learn in the form of action.
For instance, when I started blogging in April of 2015, I bought a $197 online course. I didn’t spend thousands and thousands of dollars. I spent $197. I also bought like five books which taught me the mindsets and strategies I needed to write in a powerful and successful way.
Those small investments led to quick results.
Those results created confidence to take bigger leaps and make bigger investments. Within a few months, I had the confidence to quit my job as a graduate assistant in my graduate program, and to really “go for it” as a writer.
By quitting my job, I was solidifying to myself that I was serious. I had to make it work because I had a wife and foster children relying on me. Yet, I didn’t quit my job until after I had sufficient evidence I was ready to do so. By that point, I was consistently writing viral articles and growing my audience. The trajectory was clear. The decision I had previously made was being manifest and I was consistently putting myself into a peak state, and writing from that state.
Have you invested in your decisions?
Have you immediately applied what your investment provided?
Are you consistently putting yourself into a peak state and manifesting evidence for the decision you’ve made?
At the end of the day, the work you do is the byproduct of your decisions. Your work is the byproduct of your commitment.
Your work is a reflection of your investment.
If your work isn’t what you want it to be, you’ll need to invest more.
You’ll need to “sharpen your saw,” or perhaps even replace your saw with something more effective.
If you want to do better work, you’ll need to become a different person with a different mindset and a different identity.
Invest More In Yourself
Although a religious example, this next story is incredibly instructive and fascinating.
George Q. Cannon was a leader of the Latter-Day Saint Church some time ago. As a young and impoverished man, he approached his tithing practice in a unique way. Tithing, in that faith, is Biblical and encourages members to pay 10% of their income.
But George was highly imaginative in how he paid his tithing. Rather than paying retroactively, wherein he paid 10% of what he earned, he decided to pay 10% of what he intended to earn in his future.
In a talk, Dr. Wendy Watson further expounded on this story:
When his bishop commented on the large amount of tithing poor young George was paying, George said something like: “Oh bishop, I’m not paying tithing on what I make. I’m paying tithing on what I want to make.” And the very next year George earned exactly the amount of money he had paid tithing on the year before!
George Q. Cannon was not transactional in his religious approach to tithing. He was transformational. He didn’t see tithing as a cost, but an investment in himself and his relationship with his faith.
Whether you are spiritually-minded or not, the implications of this story are psychologically instructive.
How was he able to turn his financial investments into upgraded skills and mindsets?
Rather than acting from your present circumstances, you act from your future circumstances.
Rather than living from the present or past, you can “assume the feeling of your wish fulfilled.”
This is one of the reasons to write down your goals daily — it allows you to live as though your desired future is already a concrete fact.
But this is also another reason to invest money in yourself, your relationships, your priorities, and your future. When you invest in something, you upgrade your subconscious mindset around that thing. Essentially, you’re saying to yourself — I can be, do, and have more than I currently am. This is why imagination is so key.
In George Cannon’s case, he invested in his relationship with his God, which led to a 10X transformation. Investment is always a more powerful mindset than seeing things as a cost.
Focus On Investment Over Cost
“The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” — Oscar Wilde
Nothing is a cost.
Everything is an investment.
And the more you look at life as an investment, the more you’ll focus on what you can give rather than what you can get.
This is what blows my mind about most people: they aren’t willing to invest in themselves. They see things like education, mentorships, mastermind groups, and other similar things as a “cost.”
In other words, they don’t believe they are worth it.
However, when your mindset shifts from “cost,” to “investment,” then you start investing big time in yourself, your skills, your relationships, your environment, and the other things that are important to you.
When you come from the perspective of investment, you are totally open. When you come from the perspective of cost, you are closed off.
Investment is how George Q. Cannon saw his tithing. Perhaps most people see it as a cost.
Investment transforms. Cost doesn’t.
Do you see yourself as a cost or an investment?
Do you see your relationships as a cost or an investment?
Do you see your work as a cost or an investment?
When you shift to investment, you begin to experience 10X thinking. You begin to stretch your subconscious mindset about what you can have and be and do.
You come to realize that you as a person are incredibly flexible and fluid. In other words, you can change and transform. Investing in yourself shatters unhealthy subconscious patterns and courageously places yourself in a higher and more elevated plane, wherein you can rise to new occasions.
Are you going to invest big in yourself in 2019?
Are you going to focus on giving, gratitude, and growth?
Are you going to be transformational?
Are you going to go 10X in 2019?
Have you ever gone 10X before?
You can do this when you start investing in yourself. When you stop seeing yourself as a cost.