Willpower is overrated

To me, success has always been linked to willpower.

  • I was never the strongest swimmer, yet I’d usually win when other kids started to feel tired.
  • I was never the fastest runner, yet over the course of a soccer game, I’d outrun my opponents.
  • I was never the smartest employee, but I’d work overtime to make up for my shortcomings and then some.
  • Same for marathons, same for Ironman triathlons (well, one) and the same goes for (what I thought) most things in life.

Don’t get me wrong, willpower can be a great equalizer.

But I actually didn’t do myself a favor by always trying to solve everything with willpower.  Because as humans, we have a limited amount of willpower to use. Some more than others, but there’s a limit to it nevertheless.

At some point I ran out of willpower and bad habits started to sneak into my life. I stopped working out at the same rate I used to. I’d have a glass of wine more nights than not. I stopped writing as much as I’d like to. And somehow I couldn’t just muscle my mind or body to do what I wanted it to do.

I had run out of willpower. It was all used up throughout the day and bad decisions started to sneak in.

Now I try to only use willpower when absolutely necessary.

Otherwise, try to design your environment in a way so you can accomplish your goals (or desired habits) without needing a whole lot of willpower. Work smarter, not harder.

Want to drink more water? Fill water bottles and place them around the house.

Want to go on a run first thing in the morning? Put your running shoes next to your bed. Heck, why not sleep in your running clothes?

Want to read more books before bed?  Put a book next to your bed and don’t allow yourself to bring your phone into your bedroom.

Want to quit smoking? Don’t have cigarettes in the house.

Want to eat healthier? Don’t have unhealthy food in your house.

Keep forgetting to take your vitamins. Put them on your desk at work

Spend too much time on Instagram? Delete the app.

Have an unhealthy relationship with your smartphone. Make it dumb.

Do notifications distract you? Turn them off?

Get too many spam calls. Send all calls to voicemail, except the ones in your favorites list.

I used to think that I can be some kind of Superman and solve everything through willpower. I was wrong.

The reality is that willpower is in limited supply.

Doesn’t apply to you? Wrong. It does.

Don’t solve problems by always choosing the hard route.

Choose the smart route.

And yes, hiking the JMT would have been a lot more fun with a Llama. I know that now.

By the way, this is the best book about building better habits I’ve ever read.