Solely using willpower is not enough to achieve long-term success.
I recently listened to an episode of The Ground Up Show – a podcast hosted by Matt D’Avella – that featured guest speaker Dan Harris. Dan said something that made realize how I was able to achieve a lot of the recent successes in my life: solely using willpower is not enough to achieve long-term success. Let me provide a personal example before I dive a little deeper.
Aside from being a car-crazed lunatic, I’ve also been into fitness for the majority of my adult life. It certainly makes breaking a nut or bolt loose a lot easier when power tools aren’t an option. I also play the saxophone, build computers, and do other non-car things. In this instance, I’m going to use fitness as a way to express my thoughts on willpower, as it’s the only interest I’ve had that’s lasted as long as my automotive passion, and that’s really only because I could exercise before I could drive.
In junior high and high school I played football for a couple years, ran track for a couple of years, and lifted on and off. I fell off a bit in regards to health as I got my first job and sense of independence, but later regained myself through Insanity workouts and weightlifting in college. My junior year in college was the strongest and leanest I had ever been, but even then, I fell off as things got busier.
Post college I moved to Michigan and fitness fell off for a few months, but I eventually started my routine back up in 2016. I went through the viscous cycle of build, cut, build, cut, build, cut falling just a hair short of my goals every summer since. Now in 2018, I’ve made it closer to my “goal” than ever before, and it’s been the easiest journey I had so far. My explanation as to why this has been my best year circles back to the whole point of this post.
Ever since I fell out of my high school prime my goal was rooted in a superficial mind set. Sure, I would tell people I just wanted to be healthy again, it didn’t matter what I looked like, but in the back of my mind that was a large part of my driving factor. I was stubborn. I had self control others didn’t. I knew I could just get through it no matter what. Well, every summer I would deprive myself through my cutting diet. After a few weeks, or months if I was lucky, I would become tired and filled with discontent, which would inevitably lead to cheating.
My mindset going into the 2018 season was a bit clearer and 100% focused on the health benefits of everything I was doing. This mentality allowed progress to happen naturally without any self-doubt or long lasting discontent. The moments of drudgery still existed, but the outlook of long-term benefits kept me on my path, where will-power alone would have left me in the dust. All of this has allowed me to get to the best physical shape I’ve been in since high school, while also feeling like I haven’t given up my contentment to achieve it.
Now, I’m not bashing willpower, it is useful, but not in the ways we tend to try and use it. It’s great for short term motivation, but you can’t fuel a project with it. If you can’t see yourself following through on a project from the beginning, and that’s after thinking of every step you’ll need to take along the way, don’t start under the pretense it’ll get done because you’re foolish enough to think you have enough willpower to overcome it.
I think that is a big problem in the automotive enthusiast world. You see it everyday on Facebook and Craigslist; someone selling a project they “can’t afford anymore,” don’t have time for,” or “want to move onto something different.” There is a big difference between excitement and true desire.
Excitement plays on those superficial tendencies. You may think that this idea you have will change so much for you. It will be an impressive thing you can show off. It will give you that edge in competition. You need to have this exact one or no other one, and it needs to be this way.
True desire comes when you do it for your own satisfaction. You understand it will be hard, but you realize the benefits, such as the skills and knowledge you gain along the way, will take you through it all. That needs to be your driving factor.
I’ve rambled quite a bit, and apologize for that, but to wrap this all up with a neat little bow. Choose projects sparingly and intentionally. Set a direction, but not necessarily an end-goal. Enjoy the journey. And most importantly, be honest with yourself.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this more philosophical Saabros’ installment. This realization has added a ton of value to my life, and hopefully, it will for you as well.
Link to the aforementioned podcast in the notes below.
Podcast: The Ground Up Show Episode 43