Willpower is Not Enough

As January begins, and your New Year’s resolution is fresh in your mind, your will to complete your stated goal is strong. You’re focused, energized, and determined. If you are like many individuals that struggle with your resolutions, if I checked back in March, you’d be much less energized, not quite as determined, and possibly focused on other priorities. For many, the inability to stay on track and see a resolution through to completion is a sign that you lack will power, and will power is all that is needed to meet a goal. The good news is that will power is only a small portion of the equation to success.

According to the book, Change Anything (2011), there are six sources of influence that drive our behavior. If you only focus on one area, for example will power, there may be five other sources of influence adversely impacting your efforts. Without taking into account all six sources of influence, you are unlikely to find success in your efforts to change. The foundation of the six sources model are “Motivation” and “Ability.” These to areas are then sub-divided into three distinct categories: “Personal,” “Social,” and “Structural.” A brief description of each is provided below:

  • Personal Motivation: The personal impulse to achieve a desirable goal; your will power
  • Personal Ability: Your ability or skill set for achieving a goal (for example, learning about nutrition or exercise). Changing persistent habits often involves acquiring a new skill.
  • Social Motivation: Others reinforce habits for us, good and bad. To make a change it is necessary to be around others that reinforce the good habits we need to achieve our goals.
  • Social Ability: Changing persistent habits requires help, support and information from others. Create a web of helping relationships.
  • Structural Motivation: Directly link short-term rewards or punishments to the new habits you are trying to form. Remember to reward even small changes in behavior. Don’t wait until you reach your goal to “celebrate” successes. Small rewards will spur you on to continue.
  • Structural Ability: Small changes in your environment can have a surprising effect on your choices. Add a few visual cues that help you focus on your goals. Remove things in your environment that may hinder your progress or tempt you to stray from your goals.

Remember, will power is only 16% of the success equation. The other 84% consists of the skills you learn, the people that support you, and the physical world around you.

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