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The Ultimate Guide to Gaining Unlimited Willpower and Self-Discipline. No More Excuses.

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lewj24

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Warning: Extremely Long Post

Do you want to achieve things but can’t force yourself to do it? Do you tell yourself you’ll change but never do? I’m going to let you in on the biggest secret your self-help guru doesn’t want you to know. I’m going to teach you how to get anything and everything you’ve ever wanted. How will I do this? I’m going to teach you how to have unlimited willpower, you heard me correctly you “willpower depletion” advocates, unlimited. The (actual) Secret. I’m a strong believer that almost everybody’s problems in life could be fixed with more willpower and self-discipline. These are the root to everything in life and in the next few minutes you will gain a complete understanding of how they really work.

Even though I’ve always wanted to succeed in life, I’ve always been a lazy procrastinator. I would try to wake up early and somehow sleep in until noon. I would write out a to do list/goals and then never do them. I would start exercising but quit after a couple weeks. I would want straight A’s but only start studying for an exam the night before. I could go on and on, you name it I did it. If this is you then you are aware that this is a major problem. You want to succeed but are unable to force yourself to do things. It’s super frustrating.

I’ve been searching for years now on how to become self-disciplined. How to have so much willpower I could achieve anything I set my mind to. Everyone says motivation is fleeting so I set off to become disciplined. I read book after book, post after post, and watched video after video (big jocko fan) and I still didn’t grasp it. Something was missing. Years went by and I was no more disciplined even after all of my research and learning. What was wrong? What was I missing?

Years of confusion and struggling went by until I finally figured it out. I stumbled across a book I wasn’t looking for and it changed my life. Once I read this book it all made sense.

On a side note, MJ’s TMF book connected all the dots for me. It was like I knew about some of the ideas already, but they weren’t all connected and once he explained everything it all clicked. Likewise, I believe everyone understands various ideas about willpower and self-discipline but don’t quite understand everything involved. I hope this post connects all the dots for you.

The credit goes mainly to Henry Hazlitt who wrote the book “The Way to Willpower.” He is an economist most famous for his book, “Economics in One Lesson” and wrote the willpower book when he was a 28-year-old nobody. It was written 100 years ago and few know about it. This book is in the public domain and can be read for free on Google (no excuses). But I’m going to summarize his thoughts below using my own experience and interpretations (definitely no excuses). If my posts aren’t clicking for you maybe his book will, or vice versa.

This post is long and thought-provoking. You may have to think about these concepts as you move throughout your days/months to really grasp the ideas.


Let’s Begin:

First, we need to define willpower, self-discipline, and habits. My definitions are:

Willpower is forcing yourself to do something in the moment right now.

Self-discipline is consistent willpower throughout time; days, months, etc.

Habits are actions that, because of self-discipline, become easier and easier through time requiring less thought and energy to complete. Almost becoming automatic, routine.

This is the logical order of how your actions work. Willpower first then Self-Discipline then Habits. You could argue these definitions are wrong but it’s immaterial what words you use to describe these ideas. Call them whatever you’d like. The following will still apply.

Based on these definitions we will realize the key to success is understanding willpower. Once you get willpower everything else will follow, without willpower you have nothing.

My definition of willpower above isn’t enough. We have to go deeper.

What exactly is willpower?

To figure that out we must realize that our brain doesn’t know what willpower is. Because of this, we are going to temporarily throw this word away and replace it with words your brain does understand. The 2 words are: desire and intellect.

Desire is what you want. Pizza, sleep, money, drugs, you name it.

Intellect is your brain coming up with ways to get what you desire. If you want pizza your intellect figures out how to get you one.

If this were a GPS your Desire would be the location and your Intellect would find the best route.

Your intellect also weighs your desires. Since you have so many desires it figures out which ones are the strongest. You may know you want pizza but do you want Papa John's or Pizza Hut? Delivery or carryout? Sausage or pepperoni? Your intellect will figure it out.

How does your intellect choose? It selects the desire that is the strongest. The strongest desire will always win.

When people say they need willpower they are really saying they have 2 desires (or more) that directly conflict with each other.

For example. I personally have no desire to smoke. If anything, I have a desire not to smoke. If anybody were to ask me, “Want a cigarette?” It would be an easy, “No.” No “willpower” needed. But for someone who’s trying to quit smoking they have 2 desires: The desire to quit and the desire to smoke. These 2 desires conflict with each other and cause the smoker to need “willpower” to make the right decision. But he doesn’t need willpower, he needs a stronger desire not to smoke and/or a weaker desire to smoke. This explanation breaks the willpower depletion theory.

Usually, your conflicting desires are long-term vs short-term. In the long run I want six-pack abs but right now I want to eat a whole pizza. These are directly opposing each other and I want both. Your intellect will choose the strongest desire in the moment. This is the time you start hearing that voice in your head, “A couple slices of pizza won’t hurt, but I really want abs, people with abs eat pizza sometimes too. I do want to look hot for summer, but I have been good all week…” This is your intellect trying to figure out which desire is stronger.

We have a countless number of desires and they are constantly changing throughout the day. This is the problem. At 10pm you have the desire to wake up early and get things done. At 5am your only desire in the world is to sleep. Remember, the strongest desire in the moment always wins. So how does the early riser get himself out of bed? He remembers what willpower really is.

This brings us to the true definition of willpower:

“The ability to keep a remote desire so vividly in mind that immediate desires which interfere with it are not gratified.”

Your long-term desires need to stay stronger than your short-term desires in the moment. A lot of people forget about their long-term desires when their short-term desires take over. You can’t let your long-term desire of waking up earlier be forgotten when it’s 5am and all you want is sleep. Do not forget your long-term desires, you must always keep them in mind. Muhammad Ali has a quote that fits perfectly with this definition of willpower, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” He kept the long-term in mind. This is also the same as when people say, “What’s your why?” Muhammad Ali’s was to be a champion and he kept it in mind during the times he wanted to quit. Reminding himself of his long-term desire made him strong enough to push through his short-term pain in his moments of weakness.

Now you might be thinking that this makes no sense. How could thinking about your long-term desire at 5am stop you from wanting to go back to sleep? After all, you will still be insanely tired.

Yes, you will still be tired. But this is the point where you must Pay the Price. This explanation of willpower isn’t a trick to make life easy. All I’m doing is making you aware of what’s really going on inside your head. Yes, you will still want to sleep. But in order to get your long-term desire of waking up early you must pay the price. Your short-term desire for more sleep is the price to pay. You will be tired, cold, groggy, annoyed, and maybe more but that is the price you pay for your long-term desire. Nothing is free. If you decided to sleep in instead, you will still be paying a price but in reverse. You will not accomplish your desire to get things done in the morning and will pay the price of regret, sadness, and being unsuccessful in doing your morning work.

However, there is one trick, and that trick is creating a habit. Once you are in the habit of waking up at 5am every day the price you pay gets smaller and smaller. Some things will become so automatic you will forget you even struggled to do them in the first place. This is the ultimate end goal and can be applied to almost anything.

Now that we know what willpower is we must learn how to use it.

Rule #1: Never Break A Resolution.

When you start looking at your desires you will want to make a resolution. A resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. You might make many resolutions all the time to do one thing or the other and may not even realize it. If you make a resolution and don’t follow through you will hurt your ego. Do not resolve to do something that you won’t do. This is demoralizing and if you fail resolution after resolution eventually you will stop making resolutions to improve yourself because you will remember all of your past failures. Because of this you must make fewer resolutions and keep more. If this means you have to start super small, like flossing your teeth, then that’s where you start. Once that becomes easy (aka habit) you become more confident and can shoot bigger. Make sure that before you are about to make a resolution you weigh all your desires and their pros and cons in their entirety. Look at all the pros and cons of each desire without bias and then you must choose one. When you make a resolution you are saying, “Ok I see how reading a book will be better than watching TV. The pros of reading are increased knowledge and the cons are it’s boring and work. The pros of TV are it’s fun and entertaining and cons are its mindless and short term. I’m going to make a resolution to read instead of watch TV.” (This was a very simple and short example to show the process). Then, when the time comes, and it is time to read instead of watch TV you must read. And if you have only a desire to watch TV then you must bring the reading desire back to the front of your mind. (What’s your why?) Then you pay the price and sacrifice your TV watching and read that book.

The only time you can make an exception and break a resolution is when you have completely formed a habit. You will go back to your resolution with ease because it is now routine.

Rule #2. Only Look On The Bright Side.

Once you have your resolution in place you must not look at what you are giving up. Don’t mourn the loss of drinking if you resolved to not drink. There is no point in thinking of things you are missing out on since you should have already thought of these before making the resolution. This thinking will make you more susceptible to breaking your resolution. Instead, only think of the positives that being sober will give you. Keep in mind the reasons you decided to not drink in the first place and it will be easier to accomplish your goal.

Rule #3. Your Resolution Is Final.

When your resolution is made it’s final. No if’s and’s or but’s. You should have already thought it through in its entirety and came up with the best decision. If you give yourself leeway to change it you will find yourself changing it whenever convenient. There is no turning back once it’s made.

Rule #4. Don’t Make Your Resolution Too Big Or Too Small.

If you make your resolution too difficult you won’t be able to do it. If you make it too easy you may not feel challenged or that it is worthwhile. If you’re used to waking up at noon every day then setting a resolution to wake up at 4am is almost impossible. However, making a resolution to wake up at 11:45am might be too easy. Make a resolve that is challenging yet doable in your situation at this time. You cannot become your ideal person overnight, you must build up to it.

This is the general process to have ultimate willpower.

The Steps are:
  • Weigh your desires in their entirety. No bias.
  • Make a resolution to get the desire you want. (Preferably a specific time, place, and action.)
  • Keep this desire in mind when other desires try to take over.
  • Pay the price for it.
  • Follow the rules above.
  • Repeat task until it becomes habitual.
  • Repeat the entire process.
This is the formula that will guide you.


Extra Side Points:

Changing Your Desires


You can use your intellect to weaken or strengthen your desires. If you want to start exercising maybe look up why it would benefit you and make you feel so good. And look up how not exercising will ruin you and make you feel horrible. I’m literally telling you to brainwash yourself.

Allen Carr’s stop smoking and drinking books have helped so many people. He doesn’t tell you any secret tips or tricks. He just takes away your desire to smoke and drink.

If you are convinced that eating a candy bar will kill you on the spot, you will never eat candy ever again because your desire to live is too great. It doesn’t matter how many people ask you to eat it or how tasty it is or if Halloween was every day of the year, you would never eat candy again.

Before I knew about how willpower worked there was a time when I was running a mile a day. When I was on the phone with a buddy we were talking about it and he said, “Whoa how long have you been running a mile a day?” I said, “For a couple months now.” He said, “Wow you must have a lot of willpower!” And the ego stroke felt good. And I believed him at the time. But looking back on it I realize that I didn’t have “willpower”. I had an insane desire to run a mile a day. I literally convinced myself that if I didn’t run the mile every day I would be a fat, lazy, loser, single, nobody for the rest of my life and I reminded myself of this fact, yes I believed it was a fact, every day before my run. The desire to not run paled in comparison. It was an easy decision.

This is why I believe a lot of super successful people are seen as crazy. Their desires are extreme and overbearing. Michael Jordan will compete all day and all night to beat you even if it’s ping pong. His desire to win beats all other desires. Source because I think it’s funny (skip if you want):

During the 1992 Summer Olympics, the Dream Team’s stars spent plenty of time on the basketball court, playing intense scrimmages and cruising to the gold medal. Michael Jordan and his peers, however, still found time to take part in another competition.

During their downtime in the hotel, the Dream Team started playing ping pong; before long, a bracket was created, and elimination play began. Eventually, Jordan and Christian Laettner met in the finals; MJ may have been a star, but the Duke forward had plenty of ping pong experience.

“So, Laettner and Jordan in the finals,” NBA photographer Nat Butler recounted on SLAM’s “Respect the Game podcast,” according to The Big Lead. “Like, there was some side action going on, we’ll leave it at that. Michael is playing ping pong, sweating, like fourth-quarter-at-the-free-throw-line kind of sweat. For some reason, Laettner beat him.”

While he was in Barcelona to win a gold medal, not compete in a ping pong tournament, Michael Jordan couldn’t tolerate losing in any competition. So how did he respond to falling to Christian Laettner in the finals?

“[Jordan] threw the paddle,” Butler continued. “He didn’t talk for two days to anyone. Come to find out, he had a ping-pong table delivered up to his room. No one knew about it. and he was practicing for the rematch.”

Eventually, that rematch took place; if you know anything about Michael Jordan, you already know the reported result. “They had a rematch two days later, three days later,” Butler concluded. “It was [something like] 21-4. He destroyed him.”

External Forces

External forces can have immediate effects on your desires. This is why if you want to lose weight they say don’t buy cookies and put them in your kitchen. If you see cookies your desire to eat them will skyrocket and you will find yourself with a face full of them. If the cookies were at the store your desire might not appear and if it does it probably won’t be stronger than your desire not to drive 15 minutes to and from the store at 8pm.

Have you ever seen a Taco Bell ad and immediately wanted to eat a dozen soft tacos? The external triggers that go against your long-term desires must be avoided. If you want to quit alcohol you must avoid bars. If you want to quit video games then sell your Xbox.

Remember to avoid any desire triggers you can think of.

An Umbrella Desire

One “trick” you can use is having the desire to be a certain type of person. This one desire can encompass a ton of other desires. For example, the desire to be an entrepreneur or fastlaner will affect numerous things throughout your daily life. You may now desire to learn a new skill, file for an LLC, please customers, take control of your finances, or read books on famous entrepreneurs. You have no desire to do these individually but because you really want to be an entrepreneur you will do them. If you desire to be a bodybuilder you will end up lifting weights and measuring your food because that's what a bodybuilder does not necessarily because you desire to lift weights or measure every ounce of food.

Have you ever met someone that was a textbook vegan, Christian, slowlaner, (insert any group here)? When you have an umbrella desire all the accompanying actions will fall underneath.

Caving

Do you ever notice that when you cave on your diet and cheat a little you end up wanting to cheat a lot? This is because you made a resolution to get a long-term desire and broke it. Your short-term desires have won and now you feel like you have lost the battle and might as well enjoy yourself short-term. Don’t break your resolutions, this applies to more than just dieting.

Accountability Buddies

Having an accountability buddy can be a great way to shape your desires. People have an innate desire to not look bad in front of others. If you tell your buddy you’re going to the gym or your wife that you’re going to start a business you will feel more desire to accomplish these things so you don’t look like a fool. A lot of people have accountability buddies and don’t even realize it.


Closing Statement:

I’m going to end this by quoting page 60 of Hazlitt’s book:

“Oh, the pathos of telling yourself, when each new temptation arises: “I will begin to reform the next time. I will yield this time, and this will be the last.” Oh, the tragedy of that excuse! Self-deception could not possibly be more complete. If you can only tell yourself, when temptation arises, not that this time will be the last, but that the last time was the last! If you can only repeat that to yourself, if you can force your attention to rivet on that fact, if you can only realize that the whole force of your will and moral effort must be summoned now and not at some vague time in the future, if you can burn into your mind that this battle, this inward struggle against temptation, is the only real and crucial one, if you can forget about the moral struggles won or lost in the past or that you expect to win in the future, and concentrate only upon the present battle, then truly you will be on the way to willpower. And it is the only way. Moral sentiments, fine ideals, excellent mottoes, splendid resolutions, are all mere preparation for the struggle. They are all very well in their place, but if they do not express themselves in action, and express themselves at the moment when temptation has come, they are worse than useless.”

I hope you found this informative and will start using this knowledge to your advantage today! Now go out there, make a resolution and pay the price!
 

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Bekit

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Great post!! Some really good ideas in here.

I love the rule about never breaking a resolution.

I also love the idea about "paying the price." That's brilliant.

And I love how you pointed out that it is really a matter of competing priorities or conflicting desires.

What are your thoughts on the role that emotions play? My own observation is that we make decisions based on emotion, and then we justify the decision using our intellect.

How do you counteract the role that emotions play? Or, perhaps more properly, how do you harness emotions so that they play with you and not against you?
 

Branko

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Warning: Extremely Long Post

Do you want to achieve things but can’t force yourself to do it? Do you tell yourself you’ll change but never do? I’m going to let you in on the biggest secret your self-help guru doesn’t want you to know. I’m going to teach you how to get anything and everything you’ve ever wanted. How will I do this? I’m going to teach you how to have unlimited willpower, you heard me correctly you “willpower depletion” advocates, unlimited. The (actual) Secret. I’m a strong believer that almost everybody’s problems in life could be fixed with more willpower and self-discipline. These are the root to everything in life and in the next few minutes you will gain a complete understanding of how they really work.

Even though I’ve always wanted to succeed in life, I’ve always been a lazy procrastinator. I would try to wake up early and somehow sleep in until noon. I would write out a to do list/goals and then never do them. I would start exercising but quit after a couple weeks. I would want straight A’s but only start studying for an exam the night before. I could go on and on, you name it I did it. If this is you then you are aware that this is a major problem. You want to succeed but are unable to force yourself to do things. It’s super frustrating.

I’ve been searching for years now on how to become self-disciplined. How to have so much willpower I could achieve anything I set my mind to. Everyone says motivation is fleeting so I set off to become disciplined. I read book after book, post after post, and watched video after video (big jocko fan) and I still didn’t grasp it. Something was missing. Years went by and I was no more disciplined even after all of my research and learning. What was wrong? What was I missing?

Years of confusion and struggling went by until I finally figured it out. I stumbled across a book I wasn’t looking for and it changed my life. Once I read this book it all made sense.

On a side note, MJ’s TMF book connected all the dots for me. It was like I knew about some of the ideas already, but they weren’t all connected and once he explained everything it all clicked. Likewise, I believe everyone understands various ideas about willpower and self-discipline but don’t quite understand everything involved. I hope this post connects all the dots for you.

The credit goes mainly to Henry Hazlitt who wrote the book “The Way to Willpower.” He is an economist most famous for his book, “Economics in One Lesson” and wrote the willpower book when he was a 28-year-old nobody. It was written 100 years ago and few know about it. This book is in the public domain and can be read for free on Google (no excuses). But I’m going to summarize his thoughts below using my own experience and interpretations (definitely no excuses). If my posts aren’t clicking for you maybe his book will, or vice versa.

This post is long and thought-provoking. You may have to think about these concepts as you move throughout your days/months to really grasp the ideas.


Let’s Begin:

First, we need to define willpower, self-discipline, and habits. My definitions are:

Willpower is forcing yourself to do something in the moment right now.

Self-discipline is consistent willpower throughout time; days, months, etc.

Habits are actions that, because of self-discipline, become easier and easier through time requiring less thought and energy to complete. Almost becoming automatic, routine.

This is the logical order of how your actions work. Willpower first then Self-Discipline then Habits. You could argue these definitions are wrong but it’s immaterial what words you use to describe these ideas. Call them whatever you’d like. The following will still apply.

Based on these definitions we will realize the key to success is understanding willpower. Once you get willpower everything else will follow, without willpower you have nothing.

My definition of willpower above isn’t enough. We have to go deeper.

What exactly is willpower?

To figure that out we must realize that our brain doesn’t know what willpower is. Because of this, we are going to temporarily throw this word away and replace it with words your brain does understand. The 2 words are: desire and intellect.

Desire is what you want. Pizza, sleep, money, drugs, you name it.

Intellect is your brain coming up with ways to get what you desire. If you want pizza your intellect figures out how to get you one.

If this were a GPS your Desire would be the location and your Intellect would find the best route.

Your intellect also weighs your desires. Since you have so many desires it figures out which ones are the strongest. You may know you want pizza but do you want Papa John's or Pizza Hut? Delivery or carryout? Sausage or pepperoni? Your intellect will figure it out.

How does your intellect choose? It selects the desire that is the strongest. The strongest desire will always win.

When people say they need willpower they are really saying they have 2 desires (or more) that directly conflict with each other.

For example. I personally have no desire to smoke. If anything, I have a desire not to smoke. If anybody were to ask me, “Want a cigarette?” It would be an easy, “No.” No “willpower” needed. But for someone who’s trying to quit smoking they have 2 desires: The desire to quit and the desire to smoke. These 2 desires conflict with each other and cause the smoker to need “willpower” to make the right decision. But he doesn’t need willpower, he needs a stronger desire not to smoke and/or a weaker desire to smoke. This explanation breaks the willpower depletion theory.

Usually, your conflicting desires are long-term vs short-term. In the long run I want six-pack abs but right now I want to eat a whole pizza. These are directly opposing each other and I want both. Your intellect will choose the strongest desire in the moment. This is the time you start hearing that voice in your head, “A couple slices of pizza won’t hurt, but I really want abs, people with abs eat pizza sometimes too. I do want to look hot for summer, but I have been good all week…” This is your intellect trying to figure out which desire is stronger.

We have a countless number of desires and they are constantly changing throughout the day. This is the problem. At 10pm you have the desire to wake up early and get things done. At 5am your only desire in the world is to sleep. Remember, the strongest desire in the moment always wins. So how does the early riser get himself out of bed? He remembers what willpower really is.

This brings us to the true definition of willpower:

“The ability to keep a remote desire so vividly in mind that immediate desires which interfere with it are not gratified.”

Your long-term desires need to stay stronger than your short-term desires in the moment. A lot of people forget about their long-term desires when their short-term desires take over. You can’t let your long-term desire of waking up earlier be forgotten when it’s 5am and all you want is sleep. Do not forget your long-term desires, you must always keep them in mind. Muhammad Ali has a quote that fits perfectly with this definition of willpower, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” He kept the long-term in mind. This is also the same as when people say, “What’s your why?” Muhammad Ali’s was to be a champion and he kept it in mind during the times he wanted to quit. Reminding himself of his long-term desire made him strong enough to push through his short-term pain in his moments of weakness.

Now you might be thinking that this makes no sense. How could thinking about your long-term desire at 5am stop you from wanting to go back to sleep? After all, you will still be insanely tired.

Yes, you will still be tired. But this is the point where you must Pay the Price. This explanation of willpower isn’t a trick to make life easy. All I’m doing is making you aware of what’s really going on inside your head. Yes, you will still want to sleep. But in order to get your long-term desire of waking up early you must pay the price. Your short-term desire for more sleep is the price to pay. You will be tired, cold, groggy, annoyed, and maybe more but that is the price you pay for your long-term desire. Nothing is free. If you decided to sleep in instead, you will still be paying a price but in reverse. You will not accomplish your desire to get things done in the morning and will pay the price of regret, sadness, and being unsuccessful in doing your morning work.

However, there is one trick, and that trick is creating a habit. Once you are in the habit of waking up at 5am every day the price you pay gets smaller and smaller. Some things will become so automatic you will forget you even struggled to do them in the first place. This is the ultimate end goal and can be applied to almost anything.

Now that we know what willpower is we must learn how to use it.

Rule #1: Never Break A Resolution.

When you start looking at your desires you will want to make a resolution. A resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. You might make many resolutions all the time to do one thing or the other and may not even realize it. If you make a resolution and don’t follow through you will hurt your ego. Do not resolve to do something that you won’t do. This is demoralizing and if you fail resolution after resolution eventually you will stop making resolutions to improve yourself because you will remember all of your past failures. Because of this you must make fewer resolutions and keep more. If this means you have to start super small, like flossing your teeth, then that’s where you start. Once that becomes easy (aka habit) you become more confident and can shoot bigger. Make sure that before you are about to make a resolution you weigh all your desires and their pros and cons in their entirety. Look at all the pros and cons of each desire without bias and then you must choose one. When you make a resolution you are saying, “Ok I see how reading a book will be better than watching TV. The pros of reading are increased knowledge and the cons are it’s boring and work. The pros of TV are it’s fun and entertaining and cons are its mindless and short term. I’m going to make a resolution to read instead of watch TV.” (This was a very simple and short example to show the process). Then, when the time comes, and it is time to read instead of watch TV you must read. And if you have only a desire to watch TV then you must bring the reading desire back to the front of your mind. (What’s your why?) Then you pay the price and sacrifice your TV watching and read that book.

The only time you can make an exception and break a resolution is when you have completely formed a habit. You will go back to your resolution with ease because it is now routine.

Rule #2. Only Look On The Bright Side.

Once you have your resolution in place you must not look at what you are giving up. Don’t mourn the loss of drinking if you resolved to not drink. There is no point in thinking of things you are missing out on since you should have already thought of these before making the resolution. This thinking will make you more susceptible to breaking your resolution. Instead, only think of the positives that being sober will give you. Keep in mind the reasons you decided to not drink in the first place and it will be easier to accomplish your goal.

Rule #3. Your Resolution Is Final.

When your resolution is made it’s final. No if’s and’s or but’s. You should have already thought it through in its entirety and came up with the best decision. If you give yourself leeway to change it you will find yourself changing it whenever convenient. There is no turning back once it’s made.

Rule #4. Don’t Make Your Resolution Too Big Or Too Small.

If you make your resolution too difficult you won’t be able to do it. If you make it too easy you may not feel challenged or that it is worthwhile. If you’re used to waking up at noon every day then setting a resolution to wake up at 4am is almost impossible. However, making a resolution to wake up at 11:45am might be too easy. Make a resolve that is challenging yet doable in your situation at this time. You cannot become your ideal person overnight, you must build up to it.

This is the general process to have ultimate willpower.

The Steps are:
  • Weigh your desires in their entirety. No bias.
  • Make a resolution to get the desire you want. (Preferably a specific time, place, and action.)
  • Keep this desire in mind when other desires try to take over.
  • Pay the price for it.
  • Follow the rules above.
  • Repeat task until it becomes habitual.
  • Repeat the entire process.
This is the formula that will guide you.


Extra Side Points:

Changing Your Desires


You can use your intellect to weaken or strengthen your desires. If you want to start exercising maybe look up why it would benefit you and make you feel so good. And look up how not exercising will ruin you and make you feel horrible. I’m literally telling you to brainwash yourself.

Allen Carr’s stop smoking and drinking books have helped so many people. He doesn’t tell you any secret tips or tricks. He just takes away your desire to smoke and drink.

If you are convinced that eating a candy bar will kill you on the spot, you will never eat candy ever again because your desire to live is too great. It doesn’t matter how many people ask you to eat it or how tasty it is or if Halloween was every day of the year, you would never eat candy again.

Before I knew about how willpower worked there was a time when I was running a mile a day. When I was on the phone with a buddy we were talking about it and he said, “Whoa how long have you been running a mile a day?” I said, “For a couple months now.” He said, “Wow you must have a lot of willpower!” And the ego stroke felt good. And I believed him at the time. But looking back on it I realize that I didn’t have “willpower”. I had an insane desire to run a mile a day. I literally convinced myself that if I didn’t run the mile every day I would be a fat, lazy, loser, single, nobody for the rest of my life and I reminded myself of this fact, yes I believed it was a fact, every day before my run. The desire to not run paled in comparison. It was an easy decision.

This is why I believe a lot of super successful people are seen as crazy. Their desires are extreme and overbearing. Michael Jordan will compete all day and all night to beat you even if it’s ping pong. His desire to win beats all other desires. Source because I think it’s funny (skip if you want):



External Forces

External forces can have immediate effects on your desires. This is why if you want to lose weight they say don’t buy cookies and put them in your kitchen. If you see cookies your desire to eat them will skyrocket and you will find yourself with a face full of them. If the cookies were at the store your desire might not appear and if it does it probably won’t be stronger than your desire not to drive 15 minutes to and from the store at 8pm.

Have you ever seen a Taco Bell ad and immediately wanted to eat a dozen soft tacos? The external triggers that go against your long-term desires must be avoided. If you want to quit alcohol you must avoid bars. If you want to quit video games then sell your Xbox.

Remember to avoid any desire triggers you can think of.

An Umbrella Desire

One “trick” you can use is having the desire to be a certain type of person. This one desire can encompass a ton of other desires. For example, the desire to be an entrepreneur or fastlaner will affect numerous things throughout your daily life. You may now desire to learn a new skill, file for an LLC, please customers, take control of your finances, or read books on famous entrepreneurs. You have no desire to do these individually but because you really want to be an entrepreneur you will do them. If you desire to be a bodybuilder you will end up lifting weights and measuring your food because that's what a bodybuilder does not necessarily because you desire to lift weights or measure every ounce of food.

Have you ever met someone that was a textbook vegan, Christian, slowlaner, (insert any group here)? When you have an umbrella desire all the accompanying actions will fall underneath.

Caving

Do you ever notice that when you cave on your diet and cheat a little you end up wanting to cheat a lot? This is because you made a resolution to get a long-term desire and broke it. Your short-term desires have won and now you feel like you have lost the battle and might as well enjoy yourself short-term. Don’t break your resolutions, this applies to more than just dieting.

Accountability Buddies

Having an accountability buddy can be a great way to shape your desires. People have an innate desire to not look bad in front of others. If you tell your buddy you’re going to the gym or your wife that you’re going to start a business you will feel more desire to accomplish these things so you don’t look like a fool. A lot of people have accountability buddies and don’t even realize it.


Closing Statement:

I’m going to end this by quoting page 60 of Hazlitt’s book:

“Oh, the pathos of telling yourself, when each new temptation arises: “I will begin to reform the next time. I will yield this time, and this will be the last.” Oh, the tragedy of that excuse! Self-deception could not possibly be more complete. If you can only tell yourself, when temptation arises, not that this time will be the last, but that the last time was the last! If you can only repeat that to yourself, if you can force your attention to rivet on that fact, if you can only realize that the whole force of your will and moral effort must be summoned now and not at some vague time in the future, if you can burn into your mind that this battle, this inward struggle against temptation, is the only real and crucial one, if you can forget about the moral struggles won or lost in the past or that you expect to win in the future, and concentrate only upon the present battle, then truly you will be on the way to willpower. And it is the only way. Moral sentiments, fine ideals, excellent mottoes, splendid resolutions, are all mere preparation for the struggle. They are all very well in their place, but if they do not express themselves in action, and express themselves at the moment when temptation has come, they are worse than useless.”

I hope you found this informative and will start using this knowledge to your advantage today! Now go out there, make a resolution and pay the price!
Warning: Extremely Long Post

Do you want to achieve things but can’t force yourself to do it? Do you tell yourself you’ll change but never do? I’m going to let you in on the biggest secret your self-help guru doesn’t want you to know. I’m going to teach you how to get anything and everything you’ve ever wanted. How will I do this? I’m going to teach you how to have unlimited willpower, you heard me correctly you “willpower depletion” advocates, unlimited. The (actual) Secret. I’m a strong believer that almost everybody’s problems in life could be fixed with more willpower and self-discipline. These are the root to everything in life and in the next few minutes you will gain a complete understanding of how they really work.

Even though I’ve always wanted to succeed in life, I’ve always been a lazy procrastinator. I would try to wake up early and somehow sleep in until noon. I would write out a to do list/goals and then never do them. I would start exercising but quit after a couple weeks. I would want straight A’s but only start studying for an exam the night before. I could go on and on, you name it I did it. If this is you then you are aware that this is a major problem. You want to succeed but are unable to force yourself to do things. It’s super frustrating.

I’ve been searching for years now on how to become self-disciplined. How to have so much willpower I could achieve anything I set my mind to. Everyone says motivation is fleeting so I set off to become disciplined. I read book after book, post after post, and watched video after video (big jocko fan) and I still didn’t grasp it. Something was missing. Years went by and I was no more disciplined even after all of my research and learning. What was wrong? What was I missing?

Years of confusion and struggling went by until I finally figured it out. I stumbled across a book I wasn’t looking for and it changed my life. Once I read this book it all made sense.

On a side note, MJ’s TMF book connected all the dots for me. It was like I knew about some of the ideas already, but they weren’t all connected and once he explained everything it all clicked. Likewise, I believe everyone understands various ideas about willpower and self-discipline but don’t quite understand everything involved. I hope this post connects all the dots for you.

The credit goes mainly to Henry Hazlitt who wrote the book “The Way to Willpower.” He is an economist most famous for his book, “Economics in One Lesson” and wrote the willpower book when he was a 28-year-old nobody. It was written 100 years ago and few know about it. This book is in the public domain and can be read for free on Google (no excuses). But I’m going to summarize his thoughts below using my own experience and interpretations (definitely no excuses). If my posts aren’t clicking for you maybe his book will, or vice versa.

This post is long and thought-provoking. You may have to think about these concepts as you move throughout your days/months to really grasp the ideas.


Let’s Begin:

First, we need to define willpower, self-discipline, and habits. My definitions are:

Willpower is forcing yourself to do something in the moment right now.

Self-discipline is consistent willpower throughout time; days, months, etc.

Habits are actions that, because of self-discipline, become easier and easier through time requiring less thought and energy to complete. Almost becoming automatic, routine.

This is the logical order of how your actions work. Willpower first then Self-Discipline then Habits. You could argue these definitions are wrong but it’s immaterial what words you use to describe these ideas. Call them whatever you’d like. The following will still apply.

Based on these definitions we will realize the key to success is understanding willpower. Once you get willpower everything else will follow, without willpower you have nothing.

My definition of willpower above isn’t enough. We have to go deeper.

What exactly is willpower?

To figure that out we must realize that our brain doesn’t know what willpower is. Because of this, we are going to temporarily throw this word away and replace it with words your brain does understand. The 2 words are: desire and intellect.

Desire is what you want. Pizza, sleep, money, drugs, you name it.

Intellect is your brain coming up with ways to get what you desire. If you want pizza your intellect figures out how to get you one.

If this were a GPS your Desire would be the location and your Intellect would find the best route.

Your intellect also weighs your desires. Since you have so many desires it figures out which ones are the strongest. You may know you want pizza but do you want Papa John's or Pizza Hut? Delivery or carryout? Sausage or pepperoni? Your intellect will figure it out.

How does your intellect choose? It selects the desire that is the strongest. The strongest desire will always win.

When people say they need willpower they are really saying they have 2 desires (or more) that directly conflict with each other.

For example. I personally have no desire to smoke. If anything, I have a desire not to smoke. If anybody were to ask me, “Want a cigarette?” It would be an easy, “No.” No “willpower” needed. But for someone who’s trying to quit smoking they have 2 desires: The desire to quit and the desire to smoke. These 2 desires conflict with each other and cause the smoker to need “willpower” to make the right decision. But he doesn’t need willpower, he needs a stronger desire not to smoke and/or a weaker desire to smoke. This explanation breaks the willpower depletion theory.

Usually, your conflicting desires are long-term vs short-term. In the long run I want six-pack abs but right now I want to eat a whole pizza. These are directly opposing each other and I want both. Your intellect will choose the strongest desire in the moment. This is the time you start hearing that voice in your head, “A couple slices of pizza won’t hurt, but I really want abs, people with abs eat pizza sometimes too. I do want to look hot for summer, but I have been good all week…” This is your intellect trying to figure out which desire is stronger.

We have a countless number of desires and they are constantly changing throughout the day. This is the problem. At 10pm you have the desire to wake up early and get things done. At 5am your only desire in the world is to sleep. Remember, the strongest desire in the moment always wins. So how does the early riser get himself out of bed? He remembers what willpower really is.

This brings us to the true definition of willpower:

“The ability to keep a remote desire so vividly in mind that immediate desires which interfere with it are not gratified.”

Your long-term desires need to stay stronger than your short-term desires in the moment. A lot of people forget about their long-term desires when their short-term desires take over. You can’t let your long-term desire of waking up earlier be forgotten when it’s 5am and all you want is sleep. Do not forget your long-term desires, you must always keep them in mind. Muhammad Ali has a quote that fits perfectly with this definition of willpower, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” He kept the long-term in mind. This is also the same as when people say, “What’s your why?” Muhammad Ali’s was to be a champion and he kept it in mind during the times he wanted to quit. Reminding himself of his long-term desire made him strong enough to push through his short-term pain in his moments of weakness.

Now you might be thinking that this makes no sense. How could thinking about your long-term desire at 5am stop you from wanting to go back to sleep? After all, you will still be insanely tired.

Yes, you will still be tired. But this is the point where you must Pay the Price. This explanation of willpower isn’t a trick to make life easy. All I’m doing is making you aware of what’s really going on inside your head. Yes, you will still want to sleep. But in order to get your long-term desire of waking up early you must pay the price. Your short-term desire for more sleep is the price to pay. You will be tired, cold, groggy, annoyed, and maybe more but that is the price you pay for your long-term desire. Nothing is free. If you decided to sleep in instead, you will still be paying a price but in reverse. You will not accomplish your desire to get things done in the morning and will pay the price of regret, sadness, and being unsuccessful in doing your morning work.

However, there is one trick, and that trick is creating a habit. Once you are in the habit of waking up at 5am every day the price you pay gets smaller and smaller. Some things will become so automatic you will forget you even struggled to do them in the first place. This is the ultimate end goal and can be applied to almost anything.

Now that we know what willpower is we must learn how to use it.

Rule #1: Never Break A Resolution.

When you start looking at your desires you will want to make a resolution. A resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. You might make many resolutions all the time to do one thing or the other and may not even realize it. If you make a resolution and don’t follow through you will hurt your ego. Do not resolve to do something that you won’t do. This is demoralizing and if you fail resolution after resolution eventually you will stop making resolutions to improve yourself because you will remember all of your past failures. Because of this you must make fewer resolutions and keep more. If this means you have to start super small, like flossing your teeth, then that’s where you start. Once that becomes easy (aka habit) you become more confident and can shoot bigger. Make sure that before you are about to make a resolution you weigh all your desires and their pros and cons in their entirety. Look at all the pros and cons of each desire without bias and then you must choose one. When you make a resolution you are saying, “Ok I see how reading a book will be better than watching TV. The pros of reading are increased knowledge and the cons are it’s boring and work. The pros of TV are it’s fun and entertaining and cons are its mindless and short term. I’m going to make a resolution to read instead of watch TV.” (This was a very simple and short example to show the process). Then, when the time comes, and it is time to read instead of watch TV you must read. And if you have only a desire to watch TV then you must bring the reading desire back to the front of your mind. (What’s your why?) Then you pay the price and sacrifice your TV watching and read that book.

The only time you can make an exception and break a resolution is when you have completely formed a habit. You will go back to your resolution with ease because it is now routine.

Rule #2. Only Look On The Bright Side.

Once you have your resolution in place you must not look at what you are giving up. Don’t mourn the loss of drinking if you resolved to not drink. There is no point in thinking of things you are missing out on since you should have already thought of these before making the resolution. This thinking will make you more susceptible to breaking your resolution. Instead, only think of the positives that being sober will give you. Keep in mind the reasons you decided to not drink in the first place and it will be easier to accomplish your goal.

Rule #3. Your Resolution Is Final.

When your resolution is made it’s final. No if’s and’s or but’s. You should have already thought it through in its entirety and came up with the best decision. If you give yourself leeway to change it you will find yourself changing it whenever convenient. There is no turning back once it’s made.

Rule #4. Don’t Make Your Resolution Too Big Or Too Small.

If you make your resolution too difficult you won’t be able to do it. If you make it too easy you may not feel challenged or that it is worthwhile. If you’re used to waking up at noon every day then setting a resolution to wake up at 4am is almost impossible. However, making a resolution to wake up at 11:45am might be too easy. Make a resolve that is challenging yet doable in your situation at this time. You cannot become your ideal person overnight, you must build up to it.

This is the general process to have ultimate willpower.

The Steps are:
  • Weigh your desires in their entirety. No bias.
  • Make a resolution to get the desire you want. (Preferably a specific time, place, and action.)
  • Keep this desire in mind when other desires try to take over.
  • Pay the price for it.
  • Follow the rules above.
  • Repeat task until it becomes habitual.
  • Repeat the entire process.
This is the formula that will guide you.


Extra Side Points:

Changing Your Desires


You can use your intellect to weaken or strengthen your desires. If you want to start exercising maybe look up why it would benefit you and make you feel so good. And look up how not exercising will ruin you and make you feel horrible. I’m literally telling you to brainwash yourself.

Allen Carr’s stop smoking and drinking books have helped so many people. He doesn’t tell you any secret tips or tricks. He just takes away your desire to smoke and drink.

If you are convinced that eating a candy bar will kill you on the spot, you will never eat candy ever again because your desire to live is too great. It doesn’t matter how many people ask you to eat it or how tasty it is or if Halloween was every day of the year, you would never eat candy again.

Before I knew about how willpower worked there was a time when I was running a mile a day. When I was on the phone with a buddy we were talking about it and he said, “Whoa how long have you been running a mile a day?” I said, “For a couple months now.” He said, “Wow you must have a lot of willpower!” And the ego stroke felt good. And I believed him at the time. But looking back on it I realize that I didn’t have “willpower”. I had an insane desire to run a mile a day. I literally convinced myself that if I didn’t run the mile every day I would be a fat, lazy, loser, single, nobody for the rest of my life and I reminded myself of this fact, yes I believed it was a fact, every day before my run. The desire to not run paled in comparison. It was an easy decision.

This is why I believe a lot of super successful people are seen as crazy. Their desires are extreme and overbearing. Michael Jordan will compete all day and all night to beat you even if it’s ping pong. His desire to win beats all other desires. Source because I think it’s funny (skip if you want):



External Forces

External forces can have immediate effects on your desires. This is why if you want to lose weight they say don’t buy cookies and put them in your kitchen. If you see cookies your desire to eat them will skyrocket and you will find yourself with a face full of them. If the cookies were at the store your desire might not appear and if it does it probably won’t be stronger than your desire not to drive 15 minutes to and from the store at 8pm.

Have you ever seen a Taco Bell ad and immediately wanted to eat a dozen soft tacos? The external triggers that go against your long-term desires must be avoided. If you want to quit alcohol you must avoid bars. If you want to quit video games then sell your Xbox.

Remember to avoid any desire triggers you can think of.

An Umbrella Desire

One “trick” you can use is having the desire to be a certain type of person. This one desire can encompass a ton of other desires. For example, the desire to be an entrepreneur or fastlaner will affect numerous things throughout your daily life. You may now desire to learn a new skill, file for an LLC, please customers, take control of your finances, or read books on famous entrepreneurs. You have no desire to do these individually but because you really want to be an entrepreneur you will do them. If you desire to be a bodybuilder you will end up lifting weights and measuring your food because that's what a bodybuilder does not necessarily because you desire to lift weights or measure every ounce of food.

Have you ever met someone that was a textbook vegan, Christian, slowlaner, (insert any group here)? When you have an umbrella desire all the accompanying actions will fall underneath.

Caving

Do you ever notice that when you cave on your diet and cheat a little you end up wanting to cheat a lot? This is because you made a resolution to get a long-term desire and broke it. Your short-term desires have won and now you feel like you have lost the battle and might as well enjoy yourself short-term. Don’t break your resolutions, this applies to more than just dieting.

Accountability Buddies

Having an accountability buddy can be a great way to shape your desires. People have an innate desire to not look bad in front of others. If you tell your buddy you’re going to the gym or your wife that you’re going to start a business you will feel more desire to accomplish these things so you don’t look like a fool. A lot of people have accountability buddies and don’t even realize it.


Closing Statement:

I’m going to end this by quoting page 60 of Hazlitt’s book:

“Oh, the pathos of telling yourself, when each new temptation arises: “I will begin to reform the next time. I will yield this time, and this will be the last.” Oh, the tragedy of that excuse! Self-deception could not possibly be more complete. If you can only tell yourself, when temptation arises, not that this time will be the last, but that the last time was the last! If you can only repeat that to yourself, if you can force your attention to rivet on that fact, if you can only realize that the whole force of your will and moral effort must be summoned now and not at some vague time in the future, if you can burn into your mind that this battle, this inward struggle against temptation, is the only real and crucial one, if you can forget about the moral struggles won or lost in the past or that you expect to win in the future, and concentrate only upon the present battle, then truly you will be on the way to willpower. And it is the only way. Moral sentiments, fine ideals, excellent mottoes, splendid resolutions, are all mere preparation for the struggle. They are all very well in their place, but if they do not express themselves in action, and express themselves at the moment when temptation has come, they are worse than useless.”

I hope you found this informative and will start using this knowledge to your advantage today! Now go out there, make a resolution and pay the price!
Hey, Thank you for this, it took me 2 days to read, but I think it was worth it. This gave me some clarity and understanding about some of the things do automatically or on a subconscious level.

I love the idea that by understanding the principles of willpower we can learn to leverage and manipulate them to our advantage.

I definitely agree with removal of temptation. This is probably the biggest key to sucess. Why waste time with resisting a cake, by sitting in front of it and staring at it. Its just torture. What would happen if you put a heroin addict in a room full of heroin? What is the expected outcome? By being close to the temptations, you are only setting yourself up to fail.

Removing temptations + building new, healty addictions and brain connections = strong mental foundation for success.

I am slowly but surely taking action. But through this post and your recommended lit. source, I will be able to bring some more awareness and clarity to my lifestyle and habit design.

Thanks!
 

MTF

Never give up
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Thank you for taking the time to write this. It was good to review these fundamentals as I'm tweaking some of my own goals to use the power of self-discipline better.
 

Paul David

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Great post, thank you.

The smoking analogy is very true. I've never smoked (although stupidly in school many years ago I remember spending a whole lesson thinking about whether I should start). My wife smokes when she drinks alcohol but then curses herself the next day. Whereas for me it never crosses my mind to smoke. I jokingly tell her it's easy to quit smoking, I haven't smoked for 40 years ha!

I started walking every day at the beginning of this year and fasting twice a week. Here and there I've missed a walk or only fasted once a week but the next day I can feel myself eager to go for a walk or get back on track with the fasting, whereas when I started I really had to push myself.

You just have to push through that first part , then it actually doesn't even need to willpower to continue as you rightly said.

I need to now apply this to other areas of my life. Namely getting up earlier and completing a list of work that needs to be done. I now know that its going to be hard initially but each day I complete it makes the next day easier until the time comes in the not too distant future that it's just automatic and I'm even enjoying it.
 

Black_Dragon43

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Let’s Begin:

First, we need to define willpower, self-discipline, and habits. My definitions are:

Willpower is forcing yourself to do something in the moment right now.

Self-discipline is consistent willpower throughout time; days, months, etc.

Habits are actions that, because of self-discipline, become easier and easier through time requiring less thought and energy to complete. Almost becoming automatic, routine.

This is the logical order of how your actions work. Willpower first then Self-Discipline then Habits. You could argue these definitions are wrong but it’s immaterial what words you use to describe these ideas. Call them whatever you’d like. The following will still apply.

Based on these definitions we will realize the key to success is understanding willpower. Once you get willpower everything else will follow, without willpower you have nothing.

My definition of willpower above isn’t enough. We have to go deeper.

What exactly is willpower?

To figure that out we must realize that our brain doesn’t know what willpower is. Because of this, we are going to temporarily throw this word away and replace it with words your brain does understand. The 2 words are: desire and intellect.

Desire is what you want. Pizza, sleep, money, drugs, you name it.

Intellect is your brain coming up with ways to get what you desire. If you want pizza your intellect figures out how to get you one.

If this were a GPS your Desire would be the location and your Intellect would find the best route.
Good post, thanks for sharing. There's a lot of truth in here, however, I think that the model you have isn't very adequate to understand the complexity involved in change.

You've broken it down into Desire and Intellect, with desire setting the goal, and intellect providing the means for achieving the goal.

You've defined willpower as: “the ability to keep a remote desire so vividly in mind that immediate desires which interfere with it are not gratified.”

That is all well and good, but what about people who have the desire, and they have the plan of how to bring it about, but still fail to do it? Think by analogy to a car. You can be on the right direction towards your destination (your intellect formed a means of getting to the goal), and you can slam the accelerator down (STRONG, OVERPOWERING DESIRE!), but if your hand brake is on, you won't move very fast, you'll just rev the f*ck out of your engine.

The same holds true for human beings. Your model neglects the importance of beliefs in limiting the potential one can access in pursuit of their goals. Beliefs are never empowering, but they CAN be limiting. If you don't believe you can speak in public, well, likely you won't be very good at it, even if your desire is super high, and you're moving in the right direction (actually speaking in public).

So reframing your beliefs or dropping them is necessary in order to release the brake and actually be able to tap into the full power of your engine. So the COGNITIVE component of this is essential.

The other point here is that desire by itself cannot account for the direction you SHOULD be going in. For example, if you're suicidal, your desire may be to kill yourself. But immediate desires (such as the desire not to feel pain, or not to hurt your loved ones) keeps you from killing yourself. According to you, having willpower in that situation would be keeping your real, remote desire (killing yourself) so vividly in mind that it overpowers the other, more immediate desires. And that's all because in the concept of willpower provided, there is no "SHOULD", and (selfish) desire by itself cannot add it.

Rather a much better definition would be "the ability to align your remote desires with what you SHOULD do such that immediate desires which interfere are not gratified". Perhaps an even better definition of willpower is "the ability to consistently do what you SHOULD do rather than what you WANT to do". This latter definition actually contrasts the conflict - you SHOULD do X, but you WANT to do Y.

Where does the SHOULD come from? Your history, life context, and nature as a human being. For example... You SHOULD stay sober, but you want to be drunk. Willpower is going against what you desire for the sake of what you should do. And this should emerges out of your nature. For example, as a rational being, you cannot fulfil your rational potential to act according to reason if you're always drunk. Like it or not, we have certain NEEDS as human beings. We should fulfil them. But we can choose not to. So I think Willpower is precisely your capacity of acting AGAINST desire and FOR what you should do.
 

lewj24

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Great post!! Some really good ideas in here.

I love the rule about never breaking a resolution.

I also love the idea about "paying the price." That's brilliant.

And I love how you pointed out that it is really a matter of competing priorities or conflicting desires.

What are your thoughts on the role that emotions play? My own observation is that we make decisions based on emotion, and then we justify the decision using our intellect.

How do you counteract the role that emotions play? Or, perhaps more properly, how do you harness emotions so that they play with you and not against you?
I agree we make decisions based on emotions. But I believe emotions come first and then they shape our desires. So if I'm depressed my desire to sleep in goes up. Or if I'm angry my desire to yell goes up. I'm no expert on harnessing emotions but I would say what's helped me is learning a little bit about stoicism and a lot about the enneagram.
That is all well and good, but what about people who have the desire, and they have the plan of how to bring it about, but still fail to do it? Think by analogy to a car. You can be on the right direction towards your destination (your intellect formed a means of getting to the goal), and you can slam the accelerator down (STRONG, OVERPOWERING DESIRE!), but if your hand brake is on, you won't move very fast, you'll just rev the f*ck out of your engine.

The same holds true for human beings. Your model neglects the importance of beliefs in limiting the potential one can access in pursuit of their goals. Beliefs are never empowering, but they CAN be limiting. If you don't believe you can speak in public, well, likely you won't be very good at it, even if your desire is super high, and you're moving in the right direction (actually speaking in public).

So reframing your beliefs or dropping them is necessary in order to release the brake and actually be able to tap into the full power of your engine. So the COGNITIVE component of this is essential.
I agree if you have limiting beliefs or other mental hurdles you will struggle. It seems like you're talking more about an end result whereas I've only discussed taking action in the moment. I told you how to get yourself to study, but I didn't say you would get an A. I guess what I discussed is only the first step. What you're talking about is the next step which I'm not knowledgeable on.
The other point here is that desire by itself cannot account for the direction you SHOULD be going in. For example, if you're suicidal, your desire may be to kill yourself. But immediate desires (such as the desire not to feel pain, or not to hurt your loved ones) keeps you from killing yourself. According to you, having willpower in that situation would be keeping your real, remote desire (killing yourself) so vividly in mind that it overpowers the other, more immediate desires. And that's all because in the concept of willpower provided, there is no "SHOULD", and (selfish) desire by itself cannot add it.

Rather a much better definition would be "the ability to align your remote desires with what you SHOULD do such that immediate desires which interfere are not gratified". Perhaps an even better definition of willpower is "the ability to consistently do what you SHOULD do rather than what you WANT to do". This latter definition actually contrasts the conflict - you SHOULD do X, but you WANT to do Y.

Where does the SHOULD come from? Your history, life context, and nature as a human being. For example... You SHOULD stay sober, but you want to be drunk. Willpower is going against what you desire for the sake of what you should do. And this should emerges out of your nature. For example, as a rational being, you cannot fulfil your rational potential to act according to reason if you're always drunk. Like it or not, we have certain NEEDS as human beings. We should fulfil them. But we can choose not to. So I think Willpower is precisely your capacity of acting AGAINST desire and FOR what you should do.
Yes your intellect has to figure out what you should do. I didn't discuss this at all because that's a whole different topic.

Your new definition of willpower is fine but my definition is what will allow you to have willpower in your moment of struggle because it reminds you of what to do. When you think to yourself, "I need willpower right now" You will remember my definition and remember what you actually need and that's to remember your long-term desire to fight through your immediate desire.

Your example of suicide doesn't conflict with what I said. I said it's usually short-term vs long-term. Short-term or long-term is just a general idea because willpower is making a sacrifice right now for a future gain. Maybe short-term is confusing because what I'm trying to say is the desire is short-term, not the result. The result of your short-term desire could definitely be long-term. Maybe instead use the terms immediate desire vs remote desire. I would argue suicide is an immediate desire, not a remote one.

Your last sentence is exactly what I said. You go against the unwanted desire and do what you should do. But you have to desire what you should do. You are assuming you don't have a desire for what you should do. But if you have no desire for it why would you do it? If a drunk only has a desire to drink that's what he will do. He won't care about what he "should" do. He also won't need willpower since 2 desires aren't conflicting. He'll drink with ease. He must desire what he should do or he won't do it.
 

Black_Dragon43

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But you have to desire what you should do. You are assuming you don't have a desire for what you should do. But if you have no desire for it why would you do it? If a drunk only has a desire to drink that's what he will do. He won't care about what he "should" do. He also won't need willpower since 2 desires aren't conflicting. He'll drink with ease. He must desire what he should do or he won't do it.
I see what you mean, and I agree 100%. The mechanism through which he will do what he should is desire. The crux of the matter though clearly is how he can go about changing his desire. So he currently desires to be drunk. How can he desire to be sober more than drunk? Either diminish his desire for the drunk state or otherwise increase his desire for the sober state.
 

CruxisKnight

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Look at this knowledge bomb over heree. I like the bright side part. Important to always be positive no matter what happens. For me it is work hard, stay humble and keep going :D
 

EternalStudent

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Warning: Extremely Long Post

Do you want to achieve things but can’t force yourself to do it? Do you tell yourself you’ll change but never do? I’m going to let you in on the biggest secret your self-help guru doesn’t want you to know. I’m going to teach you how to get anything and everything you’ve ever wanted. How will I do this? I’m going to teach you how to have unlimited willpower, you heard me correctly you “willpower depletion” advocates, unlimited. The (actual) Secret. I’m a strong believer that almost everybody’s problems in life could be fixed with more willpower and self-discipline. These are the root to everything in life and in the next few minutes you will gain a complete understanding of how they really work.

Even though I’ve always wanted to succeed in life, I’ve always been a lazy procrastinator. I would try to wake up early and somehow sleep in until noon. I would write out a to do list/goals and then never do them. I would start exercising but quit after a couple weeks. I would want straight A’s but only start studying for an exam the night before. I could go on and on, you name it I did it. If this is you then you are aware that this is a major problem. You want to succeed but are unable to force yourself to do things. It’s super frustrating.

I’ve been searching for years now on how to become self-disciplined. How to have so much willpower I could achieve anything I set my mind to. Everyone says motivation is fleeting so I set off to become disciplined. I read book after book, post after post, and watched video after video (big jocko fan) and I still didn’t grasp it. Something was missing. Years went by and I was no more disciplined even after all of my research and learning. What was wrong? What was I missing?

Years of confusion and struggling went by until I finally figured it out. I stumbled across a book I wasn’t looking for and it changed my life. Once I read this book it all made sense.

On a side note, MJ’s TMF book connected all the dots for me. It was like I knew about some of the ideas already, but they weren’t all connected and once he explained everything it all clicked. Likewise, I believe everyone understands various ideas about willpower and self-discipline but don’t quite understand everything involved. I hope this post connects all the dots for you.

The credit goes mainly to Henry Hazlitt who wrote the book “The Way to Willpower.” He is an economist most famous for his book, “Economics in One Lesson” and wrote the willpower book when he was a 28-year-old nobody. It was written 100 years ago and few know about it. This book is in the public domain and can be read for free on Google (no excuses). But I’m going to summarize his thoughts below using my own experience and interpretations (definitely no excuses). If my posts aren’t clicking for you maybe his book will, or vice versa.

This post is long and thought-provoking. You may have to think about these concepts as you move throughout your days/months to really grasp the ideas.


Let’s Begin:

First, we need to define willpower, self-discipline, and habits. My definitions are:

Willpower is forcing yourself to do something in the moment right now.

Self-discipline is consistent willpower throughout time; days, months, etc.

Habits are actions that, because of self-discipline, become easier and easier through time requiring less thought and energy to complete. Almost becoming automatic, routine.

This is the logical order of how your actions work. Willpower first then Self-Discipline then Habits. You could argue these definitions are wrong but it’s immaterial what words you use to describe these ideas. Call them whatever you’d like. The following will still apply.

Based on these definitions we will realize the key to success is understanding willpower. Once you get willpower everything else will follow, without willpower you have nothing.

My definition of willpower above isn’t enough. We have to go deeper.

What exactly is willpower?

To figure that out we must realize that our brain doesn’t know what willpower is. Because of this, we are going to temporarily throw this word away and replace it with words your brain does understand. The 2 words are: desire and intellect.

Desire is what you want. Pizza, sleep, money, drugs, you name it.

Intellect is your brain coming up with ways to get what you desire. If you want pizza your intellect figures out how to get you one.

If this were a GPS your Desire would be the location and your Intellect would find the best route.

Your intellect also weighs your desires. Since you have so many desires it figures out which ones are the strongest. You may know you want pizza but do you want Papa John's or Pizza Hut? Delivery or carryout? Sausage or pepperoni? Your intellect will figure it out.

How does your intellect choose? It selects the desire that is the strongest. The strongest desire will always win.

When people say they need willpower they are really saying they have 2 desires (or more) that directly conflict with each other.

For example. I personally have no desire to smoke. If anything, I have a desire not to smoke. If anybody were to ask me, “Want a cigarette?” It would be an easy, “No.” No “willpower” needed. But for someone who’s trying to quit smoking they have 2 desires: The desire to quit and the desire to smoke. These 2 desires conflict with each other and cause the smoker to need “willpower” to make the right decision. But he doesn’t need willpower, he needs a stronger desire not to smoke and/or a weaker desire to smoke. This explanation breaks the willpower depletion theory.

Usually, your conflicting desires are long-term vs short-term. In the long run I want six-pack abs but right now I want to eat a whole pizza. These are directly opposing each other and I want both. Your intellect will choose the strongest desire in the moment. This is the time you start hearing that voice in your head, “A couple slices of pizza won’t hurt, but I really want abs, people with abs eat pizza sometimes too. I do want to look hot for summer, but I have been good all week…” This is your intellect trying to figure out which desire is stronger.

We have a countless number of desires and they are constantly changing throughout the day. This is the problem. At 10pm you have the desire to wake up early and get things done. At 5am your only desire in the world is to sleep. Remember, the strongest desire in the moment always wins. So how does the early riser get himself out of bed? He remembers what willpower really is.

This brings us to the true definition of willpower:

“The ability to keep a remote desire so vividly in mind that immediate desires which interfere with it are not gratified.”

Your long-term desires need to stay stronger than your short-term desires in the moment. A lot of people forget about their long-term desires when their short-term desires take over. You can’t let your long-term desire of waking up earlier be forgotten when it’s 5am and all you want is sleep. Do not forget your long-term desires, you must always keep them in mind. Muhammad Ali has a quote that fits perfectly with this definition of willpower, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” He kept the long-term in mind. This is also the same as when people say, “What’s your why?” Muhammad Ali’s was to be a champion and he kept it in mind during the times he wanted to quit. Reminding himself of his long-term desire made him strong enough to push through his short-term pain in his moments of weakness.

Now you might be thinking that this makes no sense. How could thinking about your long-term desire at 5am stop you from wanting to go back to sleep? After all, you will still be insanely tired.

Yes, you will still be tired. But this is the point where you must Pay the Price. This explanation of willpower isn’t a trick to make life easy. All I’m doing is making you aware of what’s really going on inside your head. Yes, you will still want to sleep. But in order to get your long-term desire of waking up early you must pay the price. Your short-term desire for more sleep is the price to pay. You will be tired, cold, groggy, annoyed, and maybe more but that is the price you pay for your long-term desire. Nothing is free. If you decided to sleep in instead, you will still be paying a price but in reverse. You will not accomplish your desire to get things done in the morning and will pay the price of regret, sadness, and being unsuccessful in doing your morning work.

However, there is one trick, and that trick is creating a habit. Once you are in the habit of waking up at 5am every day the price you pay gets smaller and smaller. Some things will become so automatic you will forget you even struggled to do them in the first place. This is the ultimate end goal and can be applied to almost anything.

Now that we know what willpower is we must learn how to use it.

Rule #1: Never Break A Resolution.

When you start looking at your desires you will want to make a resolution. A resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. You might make many resolutions all the time to do one thing or the other and may not even realize it. If you make a resolution and don’t follow through you will hurt your ego. Do not resolve to do something that you won’t do. This is demoralizing and if you fail resolution after resolution eventually you will stop making resolutions to improve yourself because you will remember all of your past failures. Because of this you must make fewer resolutions and keep more. If this means you have to start super small, like flossing your teeth, then that’s where you start. Once that becomes easy (aka habit) you become more confident and can shoot bigger. Make sure that before you are about to make a resolution you weigh all your desires and their pros and cons in their entirety. Look at all the pros and cons of each desire without bias and then you must choose one. When you make a resolution you are saying, “Ok I see how reading a book will be better than watching TV. The pros of reading are increased knowledge and the cons are it’s boring and work. The pros of TV are it’s fun and entertaining and cons are its mindless and short term. I’m going to make a resolution to read instead of watch TV.” (This was a very simple and short example to show the process). Then, when the time comes, and it is time to read instead of watch TV you must read. And if you have only a desire to watch TV then you must bring the reading desire back to the front of your mind. (What’s your why?) Then you pay the price and sacrifice your TV watching and read that book.

The only time you can make an exception and break a resolution is when you have completely formed a habit. You will go back to your resolution with ease because it is now routine.

Rule #2. Only Look On The Bright Side.

Once you have your resolution in place you must not look at what you are giving up. Don’t mourn the loss of drinking if you resolved to not drink. There is no point in thinking of things you are missing out on since you should have already thought of these before making the resolution. This thinking will make you more susceptible to breaking your resolution. Instead, only think of the positives that being sober will give you. Keep in mind the reasons you decided to not drink in the first place and it will be easier to accomplish your goal.

Rule #3. Your Resolution Is Final.

When your resolution is made it’s final. No if’s and’s or but’s. You should have already thought it through in its entirety and came up with the best decision. If you give yourself leeway to change it you will find yourself changing it whenever convenient. There is no turning back once it’s made.

Rule #4. Don’t Make Your Resolution Too Big Or Too Small.

If you make your resolution too difficult you won’t be able to do it. If you make it too easy you may not feel challenged or that it is worthwhile. If you’re used to waking up at noon every day then setting a resolution to wake up at 4am is almost impossible. However, making a resolution to wake up at 11:45am might be too easy. Make a resolve that is challenging yet doable in your situation at this time. You cannot become your ideal person overnight, you must build up to it.

This is the general process to have ultimate willpower.

The Steps are:
  • Weigh your desires in their entirety. No bias.
  • Make a resolution to get the desire you want. (Preferably a specific time, place, and action.)
  • Keep this desire in mind when other desires try to take over.
  • Pay the price for it.
  • Follow the rules above.
  • Repeat task until it becomes habitual.
  • Repeat the entire process.
This is the formula that will guide you.


Extra Side Points:

Changing Your Desires


You can use your intellect to weaken or strengthen your desires. If you want to start exercising maybe look up why it would benefit you and make you feel so good. And look up how not exercising will ruin you and make you feel horrible. I’m literally telling you to brainwash yourself.

Allen Carr’s stop smoking and drinking books have helped so many people. He doesn’t tell you any secret tips or tricks. He just takes away your desire to smoke and drink.

If you are convinced that eating a candy bar will kill you on the spot, you will never eat candy ever again because your desire to live is too great. It doesn’t matter how many people ask you to eat it or how tasty it is or if Halloween was every day of the year, you would never eat candy again.

Before I knew about how willpower worked there was a time when I was running a mile a day. When I was on the phone with a buddy we were talking about it and he said, “Whoa how long have you been running a mile a day?” I said, “For a couple months now.” He said, “Wow you must have a lot of willpower!” And the ego stroke felt good. And I believed him at the time. But looking back on it I realize that I didn’t have “willpower”. I had an insane desire to run a mile a day. I literally convinced myself that if I didn’t run the mile every day I would be a fat, lazy, loser, single, nobody for the rest of my life and I reminded myself of this fact, yes I believed it was a fact, every day before my run. The desire to not run paled in comparison. It was an easy decision.

This is why I believe a lot of super successful people are seen as crazy. Their desires are extreme and overbearing. Michael Jordan will compete all day and all night to beat you even if it’s ping pong. His desire to win beats all other desires. Source because I think it’s funny (skip if you want):



External Forces

External forces can have immediate effects on your desires. This is why if you want to lose weight they say don’t buy cookies and put them in your kitchen. If you see cookies your desire to eat them will skyrocket and you will find yourself with a face full of them. If the cookies were at the store your desire might not appear and if it does it probably won’t be stronger than your desire not to drive 15 minutes to and from the store at 8pm.

Have you ever seen a Taco Bell ad and immediately wanted to eat a dozen soft tacos? The external triggers that go against your long-term desires must be avoided. If you want to quit alcohol you must avoid bars. If you want to quit video games then sell your Xbox.

Remember to avoid any desire triggers you can think of.

An Umbrella Desire

One “trick” you can use is having the desire to be a certain type of person. This one desire can encompass a ton of other desires. For example, the desire to be an entrepreneur or fastlaner will affect numerous things throughout your daily life. You may now desire to learn a new skill, file for an LLC, please customers, take control of your finances, or read books on famous entrepreneurs. You have no desire to do these individually but because you really want to be an entrepreneur you will do them. If you desire to be a bodybuilder you will end up lifting weights and measuring your food because that's what a bodybuilder does not necessarily because you desire to lift weights or measure every ounce of food.

Have you ever met someone that was a textbook vegan, Christian, slowlaner, (insert any group here)? When you have an umbrella desire all the accompanying actions will fall underneath.

Caving

Do you ever notice that when you cave on your diet and cheat a little you end up wanting to cheat a lot? This is because you made a resolution to get a long-term desire and broke it. Your short-term desires have won and now you feel like you have lost the battle and might as well enjoy yourself short-term. Don’t break your resolutions, this applies to more than just dieting.

Accountability Buddies

Having an accountability buddy can be a great way to shape your desires. People have an innate desire to not look bad in front of others. If you tell your buddy you’re going to the gym or your wife that you’re going to start a business you will feel more desire to accomplish these things so you don’t look like a fool. A lot of people have accountability buddies and don’t even realize it.


Closing Statement:

I’m going to end this by quoting page 60 of Hazlitt’s book:

“Oh, the pathos of telling yourself, when each new temptation arises: “I will begin to reform the next time. I will yield this time, and this will be the last.” Oh, the tragedy of that excuse! Self-deception could not possibly be more complete. If you can only tell yourself, when temptation arises, not that this time will be the last, but that the last time was the last! If you can only repeat that to yourself, if you can force your attention to rivet on that fact, if you can only realize that the whole force of your will and moral effort must be summoned now and not at some vague time in the future, if you can burn into your mind that this battle, this inward struggle against temptation, is the only real and crucial one, if you can forget about the moral struggles won or lost in the past or that you expect to win in the future, and concentrate only upon the present battle, then truly you will be on the way to willpower. And it is the only way. Moral sentiments, fine ideals, excellent mottoes, splendid resolutions, are all mere preparation for the struggle. They are all very well in their place, but if they do not express themselves in action, and express themselves at the moment when temptation has come, they are worse than useless.”

I hope you found this informative and will start using this knowledge to your advantage today! Now go out there, make a resolution and pay the price!
Thanks and kudos for the time and effort you took in sharing this! Its clear that a lot of thought and effort went into this post.

I definitely felt some dots connecting while reading. Very true about willpower being the key. Tony Robbins always says "willpower doesnt work" and I only realised recently what a limiting belief that is!! Coming from a guy who wants us to crush our limiting beliefs :rofl:

When i read MJ's book i felt that clicking sensation of everything making sense as my paradigm shifted. I get a similar sensation from this post but there are still a few gaps/rough edges that i think you can smooth over as you continue to flesh out this willpower framework.

The most valuable concept in your post (for me) is the "Never break a resolution" rule. When you make a commitment, you owe the world a debt. Its that simple. If you shortchange the world by failing to meet your commitments, you will experience the world and others shortchanging you. I know this to be true in my own life and i think there is something to this idea.
 

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Koji

Contributor
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Feb 21, 2021
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Warning: Extremely Long Post

Do you want to achieve things but can’t force yourself to do it? Do you tell yourself you’ll change but never do? I’m going to let you in on the biggest secret your self-help guru doesn’t want you to know. I’m going to teach you how to get anything and everything you’ve ever wanted. How will I do this? I’m going to teach you how to have unlimited willpower, you heard me correctly you “willpower depletion” advocates, unlimited. The (actual) Secret. I’m a strong believer that almost everybody’s problems in life could be fixed with more willpower and self-discipline. These are the root to everything in life and in the next few minutes you will gain a complete understanding of how they really work.

Even though I’ve always wanted to succeed in life, I’ve always been a lazy procrastinator. I would try to wake up early and somehow sleep in until noon. I would write out a to do list/goals and then never do them. I would start exercising but quit after a couple weeks. I would want straight A’s but only start studying for an exam the night before. I could go on and on, you name it I did it. If this is you then you are aware that this is a major problem. You want to succeed but are unable to force yourself to do things. It’s super frustrating.

I’ve been searching for years now on how to become self-disciplined. How to have so much willpower I could achieve anything I set my mind to. Everyone says motivation is fleeting so I set off to become disciplined. I read book after book, post after post, and watched video after video (big jocko fan) and I still didn’t grasp it. Something was missing. Years went by and I was no more disciplined even after all of my research and learning. What was wrong? What was I missing?

Years of confusion and struggling went by until I finally figured it out. I stumbled across a book I wasn’t looking for and it changed my life. Once I read this book it all made sense.

On a side note, MJ’s TMF book connected all the dots for me. It was like I knew about some of the ideas already, but they weren’t all connected and once he explained everything it all clicked. Likewise, I believe everyone understands various ideas about willpower and self-discipline but don’t quite understand everything involved. I hope this post connects all the dots for you.

The credit goes mainly to Henry Hazlitt who wrote the book “The Way to Willpower.” He is an economist most famous for his book, “Economics in One Lesson” and wrote the willpower book when he was a 28-year-old nobody. It was written 100 years ago and few know about it. This book is in the public domain and can be read for free on Google (no excuses). But I’m going to summarize his thoughts below using my own experience and interpretations (definitely no excuses). If my posts aren’t clicking for you maybe his book will, or vice versa.

This post is long and thought-provoking. You may have to think about these concepts as you move throughout your days/months to really grasp the ideas.


Let’s Begin:

First, we need to define willpower, self-discipline, and habits. My definitions are:

Willpower is forcing yourself to do something in the moment right now.

Self-discipline is consistent willpower throughout time; days, months, etc.

Habits are actions that, because of self-discipline, become easier and easier through time requiring less thought and energy to complete. Almost becoming automatic, routine.

This is the logical order of how your actions work. Willpower first then Self-Discipline then Habits. You could argue these definitions are wrong but it’s immaterial what words you use to describe these ideas. Call them whatever you’d like. The following will still apply.

Based on these definitions we will realize the key to success is understanding willpower. Once you get willpower everything else will follow, without willpower you have nothing.

My definition of willpower above isn’t enough. We have to go deeper.

What exactly is willpower?

To figure that out we must realize that our brain doesn’t know what willpower is. Because of this, we are going to temporarily throw this word away and replace it with words your brain does understand. The 2 words are: desire and intellect.

Desire is what you want. Pizza, sleep, money, drugs, you name it.

Intellect is your brain coming up with ways to get what you desire. If you want pizza your intellect figures out how to get you one.

If this were a GPS your Desire would be the location and your Intellect would find the best route.

Your intellect also weighs your desires. Since you have so many desires it figures out which ones are the strongest. You may know you want pizza but do you want Papa John's or Pizza Hut? Delivery or carryout? Sausage or pepperoni? Your intellect will figure it out.

How does your intellect choose? It selects the desire that is the strongest. The strongest desire will always win.

When people say they need willpower they are really saying they have 2 desires (or more) that directly conflict with each other.

For example. I personally have no desire to smoke. If anything, I have a desire not to smoke. If anybody were to ask me, “Want a cigarette?” It would be an easy, “No.” No “willpower” needed. But for someone who’s trying to quit smoking they have 2 desires: The desire to quit and the desire to smoke. These 2 desires conflict with each other and cause the smoker to need “willpower” to make the right decision. But he doesn’t need willpower, he needs a stronger desire not to smoke and/or a weaker desire to smoke. This explanation breaks the willpower depletion theory.

Usually, your conflicting desires are long-term vs short-term. In the long run I want six-pack abs but right now I want to eat a whole pizza. These are directly opposing each other and I want both. Your intellect will choose the strongest desire in the moment. This is the time you start hearing that voice in your head, “A couple slices of pizza won’t hurt, but I really want abs, people with abs eat pizza sometimes too. I do want to look hot for summer, but I have been good all week…” This is your intellect trying to figure out which desire is stronger.

We have a countless number of desires and they are constantly changing throughout the day. This is the problem. At 10pm you have the desire to wake up early and get things done. At 5am your only desire in the world is to sleep. Remember, the strongest desire in the moment always wins. So how does the early riser get himself out of bed? He remembers what willpower really is.

This brings us to the true definition of willpower:

“The ability to keep a remote desire so vividly in mind that immediate desires which interfere with it are not gratified.”

Your long-term desires need to stay stronger than your short-term desires in the moment. A lot of people forget about their long-term desires when their short-term desires take over. You can’t let your long-term desire of waking up earlier be forgotten when it’s 5am and all you want is sleep. Do not forget your long-term desires, you must always keep them in mind. Muhammad Ali has a quote that fits perfectly with this definition of willpower, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” He kept the long-term in mind. This is also the same as when people say, “What’s your why?” Muhammad Ali’s was to be a champion and he kept it in mind during the times he wanted to quit. Reminding himself of his long-term desire made him strong enough to push through his short-term pain in his moments of weakness.

Now you might be thinking that this makes no sense. How could thinking about your long-term desire at 5am stop you from wanting to go back to sleep? After all, you will still be insanely tired.

Yes, you will still be tired. But this is the point where you must Pay the Price. This explanation of willpower isn’t a trick to make life easy. All I’m doing is making you aware of what’s really going on inside your head. Yes, you will still want to sleep. But in order to get your long-term desire of waking up early you must pay the price. Your short-term desire for more sleep is the price to pay. You will be tired, cold, groggy, annoyed, and maybe more but that is the price you pay for your long-term desire. Nothing is free. If you decided to sleep in instead, you will still be paying a price but in reverse. You will not accomplish your desire to get things done in the morning and will pay the price of regret, sadness, and being unsuccessful in doing your morning work.

However, there is one trick, and that trick is creating a habit. Once you are in the habit of waking up at 5am every day the price you pay gets smaller and smaller. Some things will become so automatic you will forget you even struggled to do them in the first place. This is the ultimate end goal and can be applied to almost anything.

Now that we know what willpower is we must learn how to use it.

Rule #1: Never Break A Resolution.

When you start looking at your desires you will want to make a resolution. A resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. You might make many resolutions all the time to do one thing or the other and may not even realize it. If you make a resolution and don’t follow through you will hurt your ego. Do not resolve to do something that you won’t do. This is demoralizing and if you fail resolution after resolution eventually you will stop making resolutions to improve yourself because you will remember all of your past failures. Because of this you must make fewer resolutions and keep more. If this means you have to start super small, like flossing your teeth, then that’s where you start. Once that becomes easy (aka habit) you become more confident and can shoot bigger. Make sure that before you are about to make a resolution you weigh all your desires and their pros and cons in their entirety. Look at all the pros and cons of each desire without bias and then you must choose one. When you make a resolution you are saying, “Ok I see how reading a book will be better than watching TV. The pros of reading are increased knowledge and the cons are it’s boring and work. The pros of TV are it’s fun and entertaining and cons are its mindless and short term. I’m going to make a resolution to read instead of watch TV.” (This was a very simple and short example to show the process). Then, when the time comes, and it is time to read instead of watch TV you must read. And if you have only a desire to watch TV then you must bring the reading desire back to the front of your mind. (What’s your why?) Then you pay the price and sacrifice your TV watching and read that book.

The only time you can make an exception and break a resolution is when you have completely formed a habit. You will go back to your resolution with ease because it is now routine.

Rule #2. Only Look On The Bright Side.

Once you have your resolution in place you must not look at what you are giving up. Don’t mourn the loss of drinking if you resolved to not drink. There is no point in thinking of things you are missing out on since you should have already thought of these before making the resolution. This thinking will make you more susceptible to breaking your resolution. Instead, only think of the positives that being sober will give you. Keep in mind the reasons you decided to not drink in the first place and it will be easier to accomplish your goal.

Rule #3. Your Resolution Is Final.

When your resolution is made it’s final. No if’s and’s or but’s. You should have already thought it through in its entirety and came up with the best decision. If you give yourself leeway to change it you will find yourself changing it whenever convenient. There is no turning back once it’s made.

Rule #4. Don’t Make Your Resolution Too Big Or Too Small.

If you make your resolution too difficult you won’t be able to do it. If you make it too easy you may not feel challenged or that it is worthwhile. If you’re used to waking up at noon every day then setting a resolution to wake up at 4am is almost impossible. However, making a resolution to wake up at 11:45am might be too easy. Make a resolve that is challenging yet doable in your situation at this time. You cannot become your ideal person overnight, you must build up to it.

This is the general process to have ultimate willpower.

The Steps are:
  • Weigh your desires in their entirety. No bias.
  • Make a resolution to get the desire you want. (Preferably a specific time, place, and action.)
  • Keep this desire in mind when other desires try to take over.
  • Pay the price for it.
  • Follow the rules above.
  • Repeat task until it becomes habitual.
  • Repeat the entire process.
This is the formula that will guide you.


Extra Side Points:

Changing Your Desires


You can use your intellect to weaken or strengthen your desires. If you want to start exercising maybe look up why it would benefit you and make you feel so good. And look up how not exercising will ruin you and make you feel horrible. I’m literally telling you to brainwash yourself.

Allen Carr’s stop smoking and drinking books have helped so many people. He doesn’t tell you any secret tips or tricks. He just takes away your desire to smoke and drink.

If you are convinced that eating a candy bar will kill you on the spot, you will never eat candy ever again because your desire to live is too great. It doesn’t matter how many people ask you to eat it or how tasty it is or if Halloween was every day of the year, you would never eat candy again.

Before I knew about how willpower worked there was a time when I was running a mile a day. When I was on the phone with a buddy we were talking about it and he said, “Whoa how long have you been running a mile a day?” I said, “For a couple months now.” He said, “Wow you must have a lot of willpower!” And the ego stroke felt good. And I believed him at the time. But looking back on it I realize that I didn’t have “willpower”. I had an insane desire to run a mile a day. I literally convinced myself that if I didn’t run the mile every day I would be a fat, lazy, loser, single, nobody for the rest of my life and I reminded myself of this fact, yes I believed it was a fact, every day before my run. The desire to not run paled in comparison. It was an easy decision.

This is why I believe a lot of super successful people are seen as crazy. Their desires are extreme and overbearing. Michael Jordan will compete all day and all night to beat you even if it’s ping pong. His desire to win beats all other desires. Source because I think it’s funny (skip if you want):



External Forces

External forces can have immediate effects on your desires. This is why if you want to lose weight they say don’t buy cookies and put them in your kitchen. If you see cookies your desire to eat them will skyrocket and you will find yourself with a face full of them. If the cookies were at the store your desire might not appear and if it does it probably won’t be stronger than your desire not to drive 15 minutes to and from the store at 8pm.

Have you ever seen a Taco Bell ad and immediately wanted to eat a dozen soft tacos? The external triggers that go against your long-term desires must be avoided. If you want to quit alcohol you must avoid bars. If you want to quit video games then sell your Xbox.

Remember to avoid any desire triggers you can think of.

An Umbrella Desire

One “trick” you can use is having the desire to be a certain type of person. This one desire can encompass a ton of other desires. For example, the desire to be an entrepreneur or fastlaner will affect numerous things throughout your daily life. You may now desire to learn a new skill, file for an LLC, please customers, take control of your finances, or read books on famous entrepreneurs. You have no desire to do these individually but because you really want to be an entrepreneur you will do them. If you desire to be a bodybuilder you will end up lifting weights and measuring your food because that's what a bodybuilder does not necessarily because you desire to lift weights or measure every ounce of food.

Have you ever met someone that was a textbook vegan, Christian, slowlaner, (insert any group here)? When you have an umbrella desire all the accompanying actions will fall underneath.

Caving

Do you ever notice that when you cave on your diet and cheat a little you end up wanting to cheat a lot? This is because you made a resolution to get a long-term desire and broke it. Your short-term desires have won and now you feel like you have lost the battle and might as well enjoy yourself short-term. Don’t break your resolutions, this applies to more than just dieting.

Accountability Buddies

Having an accountability buddy can be a great way to shape your desires. People have an innate desire to not look bad in front of others. If you tell your buddy you’re going to the gym or your wife that you’re going to start a business you will feel more desire to accomplish these things so you don’t look like a fool. A lot of people have accountability buddies and don’t even realize it.


Closing Statement:

I’m going to end this by quoting page 60 of Hazlitt’s book:

“Oh, the pathos of telling yourself, when each new temptation arises: “I will begin to reform the next time. I will yield this time, and this will be the last.” Oh, the tragedy of that excuse! Self-deception could not possibly be more complete. If you can only tell yourself, when temptation arises, not that this time will be the last, but that the last time was the last! If you can only repeat that to yourself, if you can force your attention to rivet on that fact, if you can only realize that the whole force of your will and moral effort must be summoned now and not at some vague time in the future, if you can burn into your mind that this battle, this inward struggle against temptation, is the only real and crucial one, if you can forget about the moral struggles won or lost in the past or that you expect to win in the future, and concentrate only upon the present battle, then truly you will be on the way to willpower. And it is the only way. Moral sentiments, fine ideals, excellent mottoes, splendid resolutions, are all mere preparation for the struggle. They are all very well in their place, but if they do not express themselves in action, and express themselves at the moment when temptation has come, they are worse than useless.”

I hope you found this informative and will start using this knowledge to your advantage today! Now go out there, make a resolution and pay the price!
Thanks for this
 

MJ DeMarco

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Have you read Personality Isn't Permanent by Benjamin Hardy? It might change your opinion on willpower and the mechanism behind fundamental change, although some of the concepts here you mentioned are quite similar.
 

WJK

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I'm not so sure about willpower these days. It's fleeting and emotionally tied. But I sure believe in making a resolution that can be accomplished. It must be broken down into a step-by-step path. Like -- first I do this. When it is completed, I do that. And so on... And it must have a lot of "if-then" backup plans for all those moments that everything goes wrong.

I'm always hearing people spouting on about their huge goals. My first reaction is to feel like laughing (but I have a vested interest in being polite). So, instead, I ask them what their first step is going to be to launch this big quest. Most of the time they get a blank look on their face. I follow up by asking what is their overall plan. Usually, they don't have one. They think by mouthing a high flung goal, they have started the race toward accomplishing it. That to me is pure folly. It's totally different to simply say you have a goal -- versus doing the hard work of sitting down and plotting the route to get there. I believe that big goals must be broken down into "doable" resolutions that propel us forward.
 

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Have you read Personality Isn't Permanent by Benjamin Hardy? It might change your opinion on willpower and the mechanism behind fundamental change, although some of the concepts here you mentioned are quite similar.
I have read his other book, "Willpower doesn't work." All I can remember from that is how much your environment influenced you. I'll have to check this one out. Thanks!
 

Black_Dragon43

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Have you read Personality Isn't Permanent by Benjamin Hardy? It might change your opinion on willpower and the mechanism behind fundamental change, although some of the concepts here you mentioned are quite similar.
I have just finished reading the recommended book by @lewj24 . It's different than you'd think just by reading the OP, and it's a great read imo. Highly recommended, not to mention that it's one of those few books with a high ratio of value to pages. Around 100 pages long, but packed with value, no fluff or a thousand examples. It's unbelievable that he wrote this in the 1920s, and yet, they already knew most of the stuff we take as "new" today o_O (which makes you realise it's all because of marketing).

I have read his other book, "Willpower doesn't work." All I can remember from that is how much your environment influenced you. I'll have to check this one out. Thanks!
If you've read "WIllpower doesn't work" I'd say you got most of the value /w regards to will power from there already. Personality isn't Permanent covers a lot of similar ground. In fact, if you're interested in a shortish summary, you can read the posts by @monfii here BOOK - Personality Isn't Permament, Bejamanin Hardy (Transcend yourself...)

I think the problem with a lot of modern self-help books is that they make you think that there's a shortcut and you can succeed without effort. Or that it can somehow feel easier. Whereas the truth is you've just gotta embrace the suck if it's meaningful to you.
 

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I think the problem with a lot of modern self-help books is that they make you think that there's a shortcut and you can succeed without effort. Or that it can somehow feel easier. Whereas the truth is you've just gotta embrace the suck if it's meaningful to you.
This journey that your talking about is a path of personal human revolution and evolution. It's not easy nor fun a lot of days. It often ends up being messy and painful. It starts out as a "personal" quest. Then it changes the person and the world around him through everything that he touches or influences.

A lot of days I still feel like Don Quixote -- delusionally out riding on my donkey, tilting at windmills -- so sure that I'm saving the world and my beloved. I work and work at a task or direction without really knowing the outcome. It might end up being a fool's errand or it could end with me grabbing that elusive brass ring. I never know until those last closing moments.
 

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I have just finished reading the recommended book by @lewj24 . It's different than you'd think just by reading the OP, and it's a great read imo. Highly recommended, not to mention that it's one of those few books with a high ratio of value to pages. Around 100 pages long, but packed with value, no fluff or a thousand examples. It's unbelievable that he wrote this in the 1920s, and yet, they already knew most of the stuff we take as "new" today o_O (which makes you realise it's all because of marketing).
Yea Henry Hazlitt is a much better writer than me. He has some examples that are so relatable it's like he's seen your life. I just summed up some of his points and added a lot of my own based on what he said.
 

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Thanks for the thorough post @lewj24 !

You have created your own system there in terms of self-discipline.

A few questions.

Your long-term desires need to stay stronger than your short-term desires in the moment.
Reminding himself of his long-term desire made him strong enough to push through his short-term pain in his moments of weakness.
We as people tend to forget things. So what would be the best ways to "remind" yourself of your long-term desires?

I learned this is crucial at first, so I'd like to know, what are the most potent reminders we can use?
A lot of people have accountability buddies and don’t even realize it.
This is eye-opening. Never thought about that til now.

I also have proven this to work. What I do is I just mention the goals I set to a friend or family member casually. Then I'll have this painful feeling whenever I think of giving up on the goal. Makes me wanna follow through!
If you can only tell yourself, when temptation arises, not that this time will be the last, but that the last time was the last!
I love this concept of "paying the price."

Makes the unseen battle in your head feel more tangible and important.
 

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So what would be the best ways to "remind" yourself of your long-term desires?
I'm honestly not sure, but some people say, "Write your goals down every day!" And I believe this helps because they are simply reminding themselves daily and are more able to remember their long-term desires when the moment comes.
 

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Adding just a little to this classic quote:

"You do not rise to the level of your goals, motivation or willpower.
You fall to the level of your systems."
~ James Clear (Atomic Habits)
 

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WJK

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I'm honestly not sure, but some people say, "Write your goals down every day!" And I believe this helps because they are simply reminding themselves daily and are more able to remember their long-term desires when the moment comes.
Goals to me are usually a huge quest. They tend to be overwhelming so I must break them down IF they are to be completed. I try to daily write down what small steps I can take that day to further the bigger goal(s). I have a whiteboard above my desk where I write down my daily list. I try to hold it to 3 or fewer items. I list them in the order of importance and check them off as they are completed. Some tasks get held over for another day. Others must be redefined or redirected.

Success is usually not a direct line. It's generally a meandering journey with a lot of failures and detours. If it all falls together, or it's easy, that factor keeps me up at night. I wonder what I've missed in my journey, and when that oversight is going to fall on my head. I never expect things to be too easy or smooth. But, I'm sure blessed when they are.
 

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So what would be the best ways to "remind" yourself of your long-term desires?
Keep a journal every day.

You must remind yourself of your desire and WHY you desire it, including the price you’ve agreed to pay. And here’s why...

When you get punched in the face, your mind will immediately go to “let’s quit this shit!”. And if you don’t have a response in that moment to your mind, you will quit. You must respond back and say “f*ck that, this is the price Im paying to get X (the object of your desire) because Y (your why)”.

If you do this in your moment of greatest need, you’ll find that you can keep going. But in order to be able to do that, you have to constantly remind yourself of your desire and WHY you have it.

Journaling has been really powerful as of late for me. It clarifies what I’ve done so far, what I have to do, what I desire and why I desire it. Then in my moments of greatest need, I pull on that stuff to keep going.
 

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Keep a journal every day.

You must remind yourself of your desire and WHY you desire it, including the price you’ve agreed to pay. And here’s why...

When you get punched in the face, your mind will immediately go to “let’s quit this shit!”. And if you don’t have a response in that moment to your mind, you will quit. You must respond back and say “f*ck that, this is the price Im paying to get X (the object of your desire) because Y (your why)”.

If you do this in your moment of greatest need, you’ll find that you can keep going. But in order to be able to do that, you have to constantly remind yourself of your desire and WHY you have it.

Journaling has been really powerful as of late for me. It clarifies what I’ve done so far, what I have to do, what I desire and why I desire it. Then in my moments of greatest need, I pull on that stuff to keep going.
You're right. I keep a running journey that includes my daily activities and classic journaling notes.

Over the years, it's rolled into one electronic space for everything (in Word). Each day has a time grid so I can record my appointments and activities. In the top line of that grid, I start with two questions -- what I'm grateful for and what inspires me that day. The last line in my grid is where I determine what was my most important accomplishment for that day. I must push myself to define these issues because the days slip by and I find that they all look alike. I'm looking for ways to ground myself and find a sense of accomplishment. It's easy to lose myself in a life of perpetual motion.

I have my "To Do" list under the daily grid. It is divided into multiple sub-lists where I track goals and projects. I also have standard daily issues & goals that I work on as my day goes along... things like work on my bookkeeping for one hour each day.

I like the fact that it's expandable. I use the note symbol and I journal during the day as the spirit moves me. It gives me an easy tool to have a running commentary on my day. I can insert notes, comments, pictures, doodles, and receipts when I want. I move each month into a file.

I used to do each function separately. I had a written personal journal, notebooks of paperwork, and a business day journal for appointments and activities. I find it easier to keep everything in the same file.
 

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@lewj24 @Black_Dragon43 @WJK
Appreciate your answers!

“f*ck that, this is the price Im paying to get X (the object of your desire) because Y (your why)”
Love this!

I use the note symbol and I journal during the day as the spirit moves me. It gives me an easy tool to have a running commentary on my day.
This is an interesting way to do it. I kept a journal at some point but I write on it mostly after my day is done. I'll give this method a try.
 

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@lewj24 @Black_Dragon43 @WJK
Appreciate your answers!


Love this!


This is an interesting way to do it. I kept a journal at some point but I write on it mostly after my day is done. I'll give this method a try.
If I wait until the end of the day, I don't do it. I fall asleep with my pen in hand. I use the habit of journaling as I go through my day to generate ideas and examine my feelings. A lot of times when I write it down, it looks different from just thinking it. Writing takes a form of organization that helps me to vet things before they escape out of my mouth.

Since the journaling is done through my daily log, it gives me a chance to create a record of accomplishments. A lot of days are a blur of activities, one after another. A lot of times, at the end of the day, I'm too tired to even want to think about the details of my day. I'm just glad to close the door and be home.
 

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