“Willpower is an exhaustible resource.”
That was one of the best lines I picked up from the excellent book Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. Trying to use willpower is an exercise of logic fighting with emotion. The Heath brothers use the brilliant analogy of an elephant (emotions) and a rider (logic) to describe the internal tug of war we all go through when, for example, we try to force ourselves to go to the gym when we’d rather sleep, or to not fall prey to the allure of the television or ice cream instead of going to bed.
Elephant vs Rider. In moments of clarity, both the elephant and the rider are in agreement and working toward the same course of action. Yet, when there is a battle of wills, an imbalance of perspective, the elephant always wins. Their point is, unless we are well prepared, the willpower battle will eventually be lost. So… to change our results it’s helpful to start thinking and behaving with the above understanding in mind.
While I talked about using logic to prepare for emotions in my first post in this series (i.e. helping the rider have more success guiding the process), what I want to unpack for you in this post is how to positively empower the elephant with emotions from a deeper part of who we are. The way to do that is with “why power.”
Emotion-empowered Elephants. As far as I can tell, one of the most important questions to ask before working through the change process is simply this “Why do I really care about this goal in the first place?” At first blush, it seems like an easy question to answer, and the initial reaction I often get is some version of “…because it will make my life better.” While not a bad answer, that response focuses on a surface, or pragmatic, reason for accomplishing the goal. Making your life better is focused on how your life will look different… but it doesn’t necessarily say anything regarding why the difference is worth the sacrifice.
So let’s go a layer deeper. Another mentor of mine, Darren Hardy, helped me see there are four places you can find your why power to add the emotional fuel you’ll need to accomplish your big goals. Those four places to look for your why power are—why, what, who, and how.
1) Why – in this instance a “why” is a great cause you believe in that compels you and makes any sacrifice worth it.
2) What – there are some people who genuinely love what they do. Like an accountant who loves crunching numbers, these people are the fortunate ones who enjoy the tasks that go with their calling.
3) Who – this is often a significant other, children, or people you can’t let down, but remembering who you’re fighting for can power you through just about anything.
4) How – sometimes it’s our reputation and being known for excellence that is a significant driver of sustained good habits which produce big changes over time.
What Drives Me. Of the four types of why power mentioned above, the ones that speak to me the most are why and who. If I saw a fire that was going to consume someone, and there was a chance I could do something about it, I feel I have a sacred duty to at least try valiantly to put out the fire. And so it is with the line of work I’m in, I believe I exist to be a guide to help people optimize their health so they can optimize their life—to save those I can from a life of poor health and all that goes with it.
The “who” of my why power, that thing that drives me and keeps me (mostly) on course through the constant challenges of life, is even stronger than the “why” I mention above. The “who” in my life comes from answering the call I believe was placed on me to take what I’ve learned and pass it on. The “who” is my wife and kids who need me to be there for them, and the “who” is the fabulous team we’ve built here at TRUE who depend on me to do what I do to keep the business running so they can advance their own careers.
My Path. It’s a why like the above that drives me to stay up late writing blog posts and get up early for clients. Like so many parents, it’s that why which helps me sacrifice things for the sake of my kids. It’s my way of making a difference and my way of looking after those who entrust me with part of the precious gift of their hopes and dreams.
Finding Your Way. As I conceive of it, answering “why” is asking you to explain what it will do for your soul to accomplish this goal. By “soul” I simply mean that deep part of you that finds a genuine rest or a difficult to articulate feeling of centeredness and satisfaction in knowing you accomplished something. Whatever that is… that, is your why power. And whatever it is, it almost certainly has something to do with you contributing to the lives of others.
Fill In The Blanks. A well-crafted why-power statement often has a formula like this: “I’m doing this because I believe _______________ is important, worth the sacrifice, and better than settling for _______________.”
How would you fill out that sentence? No really, go back and fill it out…then keep reading.
A Guided Rider. So, what drives you? What is so compelling about what accomplishing your goals will do for you and others that you’ll stop at nothing to make it happen? When you find that, remind the elephant what he or she is fighting for. Find the best guide you can to help instruct the rider and you will be darn near unstoppable. If we can help you find your why or be a guide to help you through the process, give us a call today.
OK, until next time…I’d love to hear about your why power in the comments below.