Your Willpower Needs A Why

“Why do you get up in the morning? Why does your organization exist? Your Why is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with Why, you can inspire others.” – Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is masterful at explaining that “Your Why” is fundamental in leadership. Recently in a conversation with a good friend of mine, who was sharing her struggles with having will power during this holiday season, it also became so clear to me that having a Why is at the crux of exercising willpower, too.

What’s the point?

Willpower is anchored in a reason or a purpose, and it is easier to deploy when you know why you’re doing it. As you look at the areas in life where you want to increase willpower, do as Simon Sinek suggests and Start With Why. Once you know why you want to lose weight, increase your sales numbers, or start a business, it can help you visualize and achieve the desired result.

Blake Mycoskie, the Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, didn’t start his shoe business to make millions.  While traveling in Argentina in 2006, Blake witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. He created a solution – the one for one model – that guaranteed a constant flow of shoes. For every purchase of a pair of shoes today, another pair would be donated to someone in need tomorrow. As he started his quest to build this business, several people called him “loco,” but he exerted his willpower and persevered because his mission was clear.

Not everyone’s why will be as altruistic as Blake’s, but it exemplifies that if you truly know your why, it can be a lot easier to make things happen.

 How will you feel afterwards?

 One way to power through moments when you feel your willpower waning is to ask a simple question: “How am I going to feel afterwards?” Just sit in that question for a full minute. How will you feel if you postpone that meeting with your boss or skip a practice or crush the late night brownies?

When Kobe Bryant was 12, he decided he wanted to give up on basketball after showing little promise in the sport. But when he read about how Michael Jordan had gotten cut from his basketball team once and was able to use that failure as motivation, Kobe decided to follow suit. He chose to outwork everyone around him, which meant no matter how bored or how tired of practice he became, he’d never quit. He knew if he skipped a practice, he would feel terrible. This brings to mind infamous basketball coach Bobby Knight’s saying: “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.” Kobe always knew the answer to “how will you feel if you skip practice?” So much so that, thanks to his tremendous willpower, he has practically assured himself a spot in the NBA Hall-of-Fame.

Thinking of this from a work perspective, if you keep delaying a meeting with your boss in which you have to deliver bad news, you might feel a bit of instant relief, but the meeting will still need to happen and there will be an underlying feeling of dread. If you take time to think through how you will feel after the meeting is over, you will get a glimpse of the tremendous satisfaction you would feel. As Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” says, “Procrastinating just makes it harder; getting difficult calls or emails done as quickly as possible gives a big boost of relieved energy.”

 Your Game Changer Takeaway

 Exercising willpower can be a lot easier said than done. But finding the why behind it and pausing to think about how you might feel afterwards might help you get over the hump. As you encounter situations where you need to flex your willpower muscle, use these two strategies to outsmart temptations.

 The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Her new book, Fearless At Work, is now available. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.