“There is no failure except in no longer trying” ~ Elbert Hubbard (tweet this)
We all give up.
Look back on your life — how many times have you given up on something? More times than you can count, I’m sure. I personally could start rattling off any number of things: from musical instruments, to sports, to intellectual endeavours.
Generally speaking we give up because of a lack of motivation and/or willpower. But how often do you actually look closely at those factors and seek to understand the underlying issues that prevent you from achieving something you set out to do? To my mind, you have the best chance of achieving your goals when you have a full understanding of (a) what drives you and (b) what holds you back.
And that is exactly what I want to write about (and help you with) today.
The Power of Motivation and Willpower
Anything you do (or don’t do) in life is driven by motivation and willpower. But those are just words — what do they really mean?
In the context of achieving goals in life, I define each word as follows:
Motivation: your perceived understanding of the benefits of what you set out to achieve
Willpower: a mental reservoir of the necessary impulse to work towards achieving a particular goal
Motivation and willpower must be combined in order to achieve anything in life — they are inexorably connected and rely upon each other in order to produce a desired end result. Without motivation you have no willpower. If you have no willpower then there is no motivation.
With that in mind, the failure to achieve something simply means that you did not have the required motivation and/or willpower. Therefore, in order to succeed in something you must ensure that you fully understand what drives you towards your goal and that your willpower and motivation provide enough “fuel for the journey,” so to speak.
Understanding Motivation and Willpower
In simple terms, if the motivation is great enough then willpower will prevail.
Let’s consider a practical example. Say you had launched a blog about a month ago. Over the past few weeks the initial burst of traffic had slowed to a trickle and you were starting to feel a little disinterested. You had stuck to a biweekly publishing schedule and the time had come to write another post, but you really didn’t want to. In short, your willpower was failing you. Why? Because the necessary motivation wasn’t there. You were not clearly seeing the benefits of your efforts.
Under such circumstances you might choose not to write that post, thus commencing a slippery slope to the eventual death of your blog. That came about because you lost motivation, and as such, the willpower to continue.
Now imagine a similar scenario — a month into your new blog’s existence, you had experienced a huge influx of traffic. You’d already been featured in several major blogs and you were getting loads of positive feedback. In such a situation would you have the necessary willpower to continue? Yes — because the motivation is there.
How to Guarantee Progress
If you can provide enough motivation to fuel the willpower that is necessary to achieve your goals, you will achieve your goals. That’s the simple equation. If you can make a goal important enough then nothing will stop you.
Consider just one of the things that you want to achieve that you’re not working towards right now. Then imagine someone was holding a gun to your head, telling you that if you did not achieve that thing, they would kill you. That in itself is proof that there is potential motivation in the world that will drive you to achieve your goal (or die trying). The most important thing you can do is find and apply the necessary level of motivation.
That was the first thing I did (rather inadvertently) when I decided that I wanted to quit my job. I knew it was going to be hard — in fact, a big part of me thought it impossible — but I was so motivated that I threw everything I had into it. The reasons I had for doing what I did were strong enough for me to prevail. That’s the position you need to get yourself in.
What’s Holding You Back?
And that takes me back to the title of this post. I receive lots of emails from LWB readers who tell me that they would do X if only Y wasn’t a problem:
I’d start a blog but I don’t have time.
I’d quit my job but I need the money.
I’d fire that problem client but I can’t afford to.
I’d create an information product but I don’t know where to start.
Each of these statements is an excuse that justifies inaction. They are a truly destructive force that can stop people from achieving what they want in life. And almost every time they are a downright lie.
You do have time, you’re just choosing not to make it.
You don’t need the money — you could probably cut back considerably and live off a lot less.
You could afford to fire that client if you were proactive in finding a replacement.
You do know where to start in terms of creating an information product: start researching.
If you are prepared to dig beyond the excuse that justifies inaction, you may find that you have the necessary underlying motivation and willpower after all.
When I’m writing about this topic I like to refer back to an analogy I once used in an email to my subscribers:
Say for instance my brain doesn’t give me the required willpower to rock six pack abs because it simply doesn’t have faith. My brain doesn’t believe that six pack abs are possible without exerting more effort than the benefits I would gain from strutting my fine self up and down random beaches, and taking my shirt off at entirely inappropriate moments.
But what if a friend of mine, with a similar previous build and diet, showed up one day and boasted about a miraculous ab workout that has done wonders for him? Not only was it far easier than he thought it would be (lesser required investment), but it also gave him far more confidence than he thought possible (greater benefit).
You know what I’d do? I’d take interest. Who wouldn’t? I’d digest his advice, and my brain would suddenly have a whole lot more information with which to make a more informed decision. Perhaps under those newly formed circumstances, the required willpower would be matched by my actual willpower.
My point is this – don’t let your brain rule the big decisions in your life without consciously questioning your existing understanding of the matter at hand, and asking yourself if you have equipped your mind appropriately.
In order to succeed, you must find the necessary motivation — it won’t typically find you. Doing so is not a passive process; it is something you must work at.
With that said, now is the time to figure out what is holding you back. I want you to closely examine your excuse that justifies inaction and uncover the reality. I want you to turn this:
I’d start a blog but I don’t have time.
I’d start a blog but I don’t have time.
Well, obviously I could make the time if I really wanted to. But I’m wiped out when I get home after work and I just don’t have the willpower.
Perhaps I could start small though. I could wake up thirty minutes early and spend that time on the blog before I go to work. And then maybe an hour at the weekend. That would barely seem like any time invested at all but it would add up to 3 1/2 hours per week.
But what would be the point? Blogging takes forever to make you any money — where would I be going with it?
Well, perhaps I could start building up a little side income by offering freelance writing services on the side. If I could make just a little money then at least I would be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And in the meantime I could be building up the blog with a view to creating passive income streams down the line.
In the above example the lack of time hid the real issue — a fear that there blogging would not actually be worth the effort. The following flow of consciousness provided one potential solution just by refusing to allow the initial excuse to block off any further proactive thoughts.
Over to You
I originally intended for this post to be short and sharp, with the main conversation to flow into the comments. I wanted to set you up to let me know what you think is holding you back so we could explore the issues further and see if there is a solution.
Well, the post ended up being a lot longer than I originally planned but I still want to hear from you. I want you to tell me four things:
- What you want to achieve
- What is holding you back (your excuse that justifies inaction)
- What is really holding you back
- How you can provide yourself with the necessary motivation to succeed
By doing so you may just find that you have necessary motivation to achieve your goal after all. Fire away in the comments section below!