Many times in your life, you’ve probably heard something that goes along the lines of this, “If only you applied more willpower, you can be very successful.” Productivity gurus preach on how awe-inspiring and transformative willpower can be. Many life coaches generally tell you that willpower is the answer to all of life’s problems. People attribute both their failures and mediocre states to a lack of willpower.
I’m calling bullshit.
With willpower comes the expectation of immediate results, so you force yourself to change too many things at once, which exacerbates inner conflicts and makes you hate who you naturally are. Willpower may only get you through a short period of time, but it is largely ineffective for personal growth and success.
Here are the reasons why:
1. Applying willpower is an act of repression.
You may have noticed that every time you set out to do something different, you force yourself not to repeat an unhealthy habit, but this ends up backfiring and you end up not only pushing aside what you actually set out to do, you also end up doing more of what you want to stop doing. You dig yourself deeper into a war zone in which your instinctual habits and higher-minded desires are at odds with each other. That’s because you’re repressing the things you do out of habit. But you can’t simply command yourself to shove all of your insecurities and coping mechanisms under the rug without dealing with the underlying root of these issues.
2. You’re forcing yourself to be what you’re not.
You’ve probably tried copying some successful entrepreneur’s morning routine and failed at keeping up with it by the end of the week. You’re chasing after success, money, and recognition, but by being so caught up with your ideas of what a successful person looks like, you apply willpower to areas of your life only to find that it’s not giving you the results you wanted. If you exert all of your energy trying to be someone you’re not meant to be, willpower won’t help you get there because you probably don’t have the necessary innate abilities or characteristics that someone else has.
3. Willpower makes you want more.
Most people view success like this: if you feel like you’re worthless, you need to do something to prove your worth, and only then you can call yourself successful. However, when your self-worth is nonexistent, you seek to acquire external things in order to fill yourself, but the more you seek, the more you’ll want, and that is not a good foundation to begin with. People who think that willpower is the answer to any life problem are often emotionally unstable and full of want. That’s because they’re doing things by force for the sake of some future reward, without first sitting down for some honest self-evaluation.
4. Willpower doesn’t work against resistance.
You face resistance when you’re pursuing what you genuinely desire the most because it requires you to step out of your comfort zone and into the realm of uncertainty. However, when you apply willpower to overcome resistance, it never works for longer than a week because your body and mind aren’t capable of changing immediately by sheer force.
5. You expect willpower to give you superhuman levels of success that’s beyond your means.
You might dream about a nice house, unlimited traveling experiences, the fame, the fortune, and the social circle that the top 1% have, but you don’t have what it takes to get there. No matter how much willpower you apply or how hard you work, you can’t expect willpower to give you exponential success, especially if you’re not extraordinary in the first place.
6. Relying on willpower is a sign that your life is drudgery and full of dread.
It’s one thing to feel bored and disengaged (while still feeling confident in your abilities), but it’s another thing to feel existential dread when you’re relying solely on willpower to get through a day of drudgery. You feel the need to use willpower because you are in some ways dreading your own life and harshly disciplining yourself not to dread it.
7. Willpower breeds a judgmental and bitter attitude.
If you’ve ever been around people who constantly complain about how hard they work and how little they’re getting from their efforts, you can tell from their tone that they’re judgmental and bitter people with a victim mentality. This attitude, more than anything else, will crush a lot of dreams and make people not want to work with you because it’s an emotionally draining and counterproductive approach to long-term success.
8. You assume that forcing yourself to soldier through intense difficulties will make you entitled to success.
Hard work, struggle, and application of willpower won’t guarantee success because there are a lot of variables and uncertainties that come into play. There are many hardworking and strictly disciplined people who never get anywhere in life and never reach levels of success that others have. Nothing, not even intense periods of suffering, makes anyone entitled to rewards.
9. Willpower makes you focus on the unattainable rewards.
There’s a reason why you find a lot of things difficult, if not impossible to do – you aren’t meant to do them. You can’t expect yourself to succeed at everything you try, even when you might be working very hard and disciplining yourself to the brink of exhaustion for the sake of something that might not even be attainable for you.
10. You can’t learn, change, or grow organically.
You can’t force yourself to avoid all of the necessary life experiences, especially rejection and failure, because you won’t evolve in the process. When you think willpower has all the answers, you’re assuming that it’s a very fast track to the end of the road, which is a mindset that’s detrimental to success because it causes you to be so fixated on the destination that you ignore the eye-opening things you could learn along the journey.