Final Installment of 9 Things Successful People Do Differently:

This is the final installment of 9 things successful people do differently; these are the last 3.

Dr. Heidi Grant Halverson, a motivational psychologist, researcher, and writer created a list of the 9 things successful people do differently on a blog post for Harvard, which has become the most viewed blog in its history. It is also an eBook available for download.

Build your willpower muscle.

Much to the surprise of many, perhaps you included, research has proven few things about willpower: 1) you aren’t born with a fixed reserve of it  2) it is malleable: you can create greater reserves of it through regular workouts and 3) like your muscles and physical energy, it can be depleted.

Willpower is that trait that we seem to be able to recognize in others and define the levels oft, “ That guy has absolutely no willpower. Every time he passes by a doughnut shop, he can’t resist pulling his car into the lot.”

If you are trying to achieve a challenging and worthwhile goal, it would make sense to have good reserves of willpower to draw on when motivation wanes or when you experience setbacks. Think about your typical workday, and when your energy levels seem to be at their peak: is it in the morning after a good night’s sleep or after a trying day where you have had to deal with multiple issues, people and challenges, and make some tough decisions? More likely, your answer will be at the beginning of the day.

Knowing this, you need to be watchful of the decisions you are more prone to make, particularly when it comes to those related to your most important goals, when your willpower reserves are at their lowest. These are the times when you are more likely to make rash and ill-informed decisions, eat that doughnut, and skip going to the gym.

To build your willpower reserves, do something challenging for you that you might not otherwise do, but you think you would benefit from and is worthwhile, like walking for thirty minutes three times per week. Make a commitment that for this one specific activity, when you are tempted to not do it, to not give in to this temptation. You can make an “if-then” plan in advance of what you will specifically do when tempted to break your commitment. “ If I start thinking I am too busy to take half an hour to plan my week, I will enlist the support of someone who will hold my feet to the fire weekly. I will ask them to fine me $20 for each week I do not plan, and I commit to giving them the cash right then towards their favorite charity.” As with anything where it takes time to build up a reserve of something, and also takes time so the activity becomes ritualistic and second nature, it will be more difficult in the beginning, and easier as time progresses.

As your willpower increases and your confidence along with it, try another challenge you don’t particularly want to do. You will be calling on your now increased willpower reserves to help you when the inevitable backsliding and temptations occur.

Don’t tempt fate.

Many of us are prone to bite off more than we can chew. We try to do too many things at once, and lower our chances of success. Research shows that the chances of you achieving anything meaningful decreases the more goals you have to focus on accomplishing. This makes intuitive sense. So, take bitesized chunks: when looking to build your willpower by doing something challenging, do not start an exercise program, for example, with the goal of exercising 5 days a week for an hour. This is setting yourself up for failure. Start small, make it easier on yourself, celebrate the successes along the way, and, as your willpower grows from the accomplishment, and the activity becomes routine for you, step up the challenge to the next level. You can help make it easy on yourself by removing temptations you know will challenge your willpower, or remove yourself from those places and situations. For example, if eating M&M’s is a big temptation for you because they are in a bowl on your desk, remove them. Keep them out of your house also.

Focus on what you will do, not what you won’t do.

Most of us are familiar with the exercise where you are asked to not think of a pink elephant. Of course, when asked to do this, our minds instantly create an image of a pink elephant we were asked not to think of. This exercise is used by many goal achievement consultants and self-help people to illustrate that when you are setting goals, you need to state them in the affirmative: not what you will not do, but what you will do. This is related to willpower in the sense that research shows us that when we are trying to suppress a thought, it tend to become more active in your mind, and we tend to focus on the bad habit versus the bad habit we are trying to stop. The same thing occurs when we are trying to change a behavior or a bad habit: the attempt at trying not to engage in the specific behavior or bad habit results in strengthening thea bad habit. This is exactly what we are trying not to occur! This also can be willpower sapping.

So, instead of saying to yourself, “When big mouth Bob starts spewing off his biased opinions about our marketing team, I will NOT lose my cool with him”, instead, develop an if-then scenario that will replace your bad habit with a good one, “When big mouth Bob opens his mouth to spew his inane and ill-informed comments about the marketing team, I will take three deep breaths before responding.”

If you’re thinking about how you might be more successful, download this free brochure as a start.


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About Mike Craig

Mike’s clients say he has provided them with real value and helped increase individual and organizational productivity. His passion is providing real results to his clients, helping them achieve their goals faster and more consistently, improving business and personal results. Mike only works with individuals and organizations where he can add value.

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