Willpower is a Muscle.

There’s this dumb ritual I do that actually has a lot of benefits in my life.

Whenever I’m lying in bed about to go to sleep, now and then, I’ll forget to do something. I’ll forget to turn off the hall light, or look at the front door, or brush my teeth. You’ve probably experienced this too.

Ugh, you just started getting settled in under the covers.

Depending on what it is, you might dismiss it and go to bed. ‘Ah so what the closet lights on, one night won’t hurt.’ Or you might reluctantly throw off the warm covers and grumble your way toward the front door to lock the door, and grumble your sleepyhead back to bed.

But that’s not what I do. Instead, I train.

Whenever I’m in this situation, I smile, because I see it as a chance to practice my willpower.

First off, dismissing what I’ve forgotten to do isn’t an option. But before I get up, I lay there with that reluctant feeling. It’s heavy and uncomfortable. My mind is trying to make up every excuse in the book for me to not get up. My body is telling me just to give up and go to sleep. I let it wash over me like I’m going to give in, but then I push.

I will myself up, past the heaviness, past the excuses. And… well, you know, go turn off the light, or brush my teeth and then head back to bed.

Like I said, it’s dumb. I have no research or science to back up that this is actually doing anything. But it feels tough.

But I see the results in my life—I have strong discipline.

I exercise every day. I write every day.

The difficultly of turning things into a habit doesn’t seem to bother me or trip me up like it does for others.

I’m probably delusional, but maybe not?

I see willpower like a muscle rather than a battery.

Willpower is a Muscle.

A lot of people view willpower like how runners used to view sub-four-minute mile They view it like something that can be depleted if you use too much of it. But I find that thinking limiting.

It’s true that willpower ebbs and flows depending on your mood and energy levels, but if you practice and train yourself hard, you can be disciplined for any situation.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1080 ☕️

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Zero Motivation Part 7: Resources

Note: You can read this motivation series in any order, but this is the last post (7 out of 7), so you might want to read some of the others first:

“No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.”

John Locke

I talk a big game, but I only know what I’ve personally experienced and seen work in my life.

I still feel fear, sweaty palms and fluttering stomach, any time I try something new and step out of my comfort zone. I’m excited, but I’m also nervous. I still worry about looking like a failure or embarrassing myself. But I’ve found ways forward, past the fear and worry. Because life’s too short to sit on your dreams.

Besides, embarrassment and failure are a part of life. Only my ego thinks otherwise.

Maybe you have a very good reason not to do what you wish you would do. But then why do you keep thinking about it? Why do you keep wishing you would?

There are times when we have to put a dream down so that we can pick up another dream.

And there are other times when we need to see the situation for it truly is: we are scared. And that little bit of fear is holding us back.

My hope that this series will help you shake off some of the shackles that fear has on you. I hope you find you find the strength to pursue the life you dream of, despite the life you may have.

Remember, it’s not zero-sum. The pursuit of your dream exists on a spectrum. Even a piece of it is better than never trying. (This is getting a little too self-help-y, so I’ll stop there.)

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”

Amelia Earhart

Here are some great resources from smarter people than I:

Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual by Jocko Willink

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win by Jeff Haden

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #901

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Zero Motivation Part 6: Build Discipline

Note: You can read this motivation series in any order, but if the thought of reading something out of order makes you want to tear off your shirt hulk style and run naked in the streets, then here’s are links to the others in order:

Motivation Part 6: Build Discipline

“Right discipline consists, not in external compulsion, but in the habits of mind which lead spontaneously to desirable rather than undesirable activities.”

Bertrand Russell

If I were to boil down this motivation series to one thing—when you think about it, motivation isn’t very useful on its own.

If motivation was a tool in our toolbox, it wouldn’t be very good at its job.

It’s like using a flat head screwdriver (—) to screw in a Phillips screw (+)—it will do the job (…eventually,) but we’ll waste a lot of energy doing it. 

Or maybe it’s like using a dull bandsaw when what we really need is a chainsaw. 

What we need is discipline.

Discipline is a chainsaw to creativity and making our dreams happen.

Why rely on motivation when you can have the discipline to practice your craft at any time, no matter how you feel nor what’s going on in your life?

Ever since I started eating healthier and pursuing a Renaissance Life, friends and family have occasionally commented on how disciplined I am. ‘Josh, you are so disciplined, I don’t see how you do it…’

I’m not sure if there’s a “secret” behind having discipline. 

Pain could be one. When we experience pain (like from a breakup or loss or, in my case, injury) we have the opportunity to practice and hone our discipline. We *could* sit in the sadness or numbness, and sometimes we do in the beginning. But usually, we sleep it off and eventually pick ourselves up out from the misfortune and find the strength to carry on and live our best lives we can muster.

Taking Action could also be one component behind discipline. Movement takes us away from letting our worrisome and negative thoughts cloud our judgments.

I had discipline, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to what discipline meant or what it was until I listened to Jocko Willink, retired Navy SEAL on The Tim Ferris Show and eventually read his book, Discipline Equals Freedom.

If you are looking for a go-to primer on how to have discipline, I would highly recommend this book and his podcast.

Discipline is doing what needs to be done, what you know that needs to be done, despite how you are feeling at any given moment. 

As Jocko says,

“Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline.”

“Is this what I want to be? This? Is this all I’ve got—is this everything I can give? Is this going to be my life? Do I accept that?”

“Question yourself every day. Ask yourself: Who am I? What have I learned? What have I created? What forward progress have I made? Who have I helped? What am I doing to improve myself—today? To get better, faster, stronger, healthier, smarter?”

We don’t need motivation to do something. We just need a plan that gets us going, removes temptations to be lazy and complacent and allows us to show up every day with the discipline we need to create the life that we want to live.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #900 🎉

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