Willpower is not Enough – How to Succeed

  • Willpower is not Enough - How to Succeed

Often failure in life is blamed on willpower not being enough. So if that is true do I just need to build willpower? The answer is no as there is, increasing evidence that what you “see” happening is what is holding you back.

Albert Einstein once said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

How often have you heard people say, “I can’t imagine……… happening”

Most people struggle to imagine themselves as healthy or fit or anything else that they want. They apply willpower to achieve what they want but end up failing because they cannot achieve things that they cannot imagine themselves achieving.

Instead of realising what is happening, they blame a lack of willpower.

The problem is if you imagine something as impossible then it is impossible.

Emile Coue, (French psychologist ) said, “when the imagination and the willpower. are in conflict, it is always the imagination that wins, without exception.”

In other words, if you cannot imagine yourself as successful, willpower will not make you successful.

Emile Coue also said, “when the imagination and the willpower are harmoniously pulling in the same direction, irresistible force is the result.”

Willpower is defined as the ability to control your own thoughts and the way in which you behave (Cambridge Dictionary).

Willpower is beneficial in the short term for resisting short-term temptations or desires to achieve long-term results.

Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, a lecturer at Stanford University and the author of “The Willpower Instinct” sees willpower as being comprised of;

  • I won’t
  • I will power.
  • I want power (remembering what you want).

There is an increasing amount of research showing that resisting temptations depletes us mentally and, as a result decreases our willpower.

How much willpower you have in a day is a finite amount, and that amount is dependent on a multitude of factors. For example, if you’re not feeling very well, tired or stressed you’ll have less than if you’re feeling rested and refreshed.

So if Willpower is not Enough – How do I Succeed?

Enter the Power of Imagination

Imagination is defined as: the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the creative ability to form images, ideas, and sensations in the mind without any immediate input of the senses (such as seeing or hearing). (Wikipedia)

Let us look at imagination and willpower in the world of a smoker.  Logic says that smoking is detrimental and as a result, a person may be trying to stop smoking using willpower.

But willpower is not enough.

However, during certain times of the day, something calls to them to smoke, and that call is coming from their imagination, and they submit. Subconsciously they are following the images embedded in their mind which are images of them smoking.

A person with a weight issue will apply willpower to eat the right things, but if they have an image of themselves as an overweight person, that image will win, and they will not lose weight.

Imagination wins, as Willpower is not enough.

If I have a metal plank that is 60 cm wide and 4 meters long, and I place it on the floor and ask you to walk along it, you should not have a problem in doing that. If I then raise that plank to a height of 4 meters and ask you to repeat the action, you may be able to do it, but there may also be some hesitation as you start to imagine what would happen if you fell off.

Now I raise it to a height of 10 meters. How do you feel about walking across it? More than likely, your imagination about falling is way stronger than your willpower to walk across it.

Willpower is important but is given too much credit as being the total answer. Initially, the decision to make any change requires willpower. Once the movement towards change initiates, visualisation and imagination are the next two important components. Vividly imaged images draw us forward to the realisation of that which we imagine.

Visualisation is not about dreaming or hoping something will change. It is, however, a well-developed method of improving performance that is supported by scientific evidence and used by successful people such as athletes.

Neuroscience tells us that the brain can change based on what we often do

If we do something over and over again, it strengthens the neural connections relating to that behaviour, meaning that it is more likely that it will continue to occur without a lot of effort. We know this as a habit.

Creating a new neural pathway in the brain requires 21 to 30 days. That is 21 to 30 days of imagination and visualisation plus focusing on learning new information and exposing ourselves to new situations.

When we first learnt to drive a car, it was a series of steps that needed to be coordinated to achieve the goal.

At first, these steps required focus and the sequence became imaged in our minds. With the application of imagination and experience, the brain, over time, created the neural pathway that now automates those steps.

Now you can now get into a car and drive without thinking in detail about what you are doing.

The interesting thing is that imagination built through visualisation works because the neurons in our brains (building blocks of neural pathways) see imagery as equivalent to action that occurs in reality.

The following Universal Laws help us understand how the mind processes suggestions into a belief system.

These were formulated by Physician Emile Coue in the 19th century.

The Law of Concentrated Attention

When you repeatedly concentrate on an idea, it tends to become true for you.

The Law of Reversed Effect

The more you think about not doing something the more you imagine yourself doing it and imagination will win.

The Law of Dominant Effect

Focusing on something is more effective when combined with strong emotion.

Human beings process information and retain information in combination with our five senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling). The more we associate sensual information with the thing we imagine, the stronger it becomes.

The brain cannot distinguish between imagined and real.

The building of neural pathways can be triggered simply by imagining it happening.

Exercise to build a Vivid image in your imagination

Decided what you want to accomplish and write it down.
Close your eyes and imagine what it will look like (see) when you achieve it. Write it down.
Write down what you are hearing
Write down what you are feeling
Write down what you are smelling
Write down what you are tasting
If you cannot list all five senses that is ok
Refer back to what you have written several times a day and reimagine it
Repeat for at least 30 days

The image needs to become very vivid in every detail. The image, over time, will draw you towards the goal. The how just comes. It is not your job to work out how. It is your job to do and trust the process. Take whatever steps you are prompted to take.

As Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

The knowledge is what we are trying to grasp when we focus on “how”. Focus on the imagination and follow the mental/intuitive prompts that follow.

You’ll be amazed how counselling can help emprove your willpower

You will find that talking with StartPoint Counselling Beenleigh is your starting point for happy relationships and mental wellbeing.

StartPoint Counselling Practice is conveniently located in Beenleigh close to Logan, Mt Warren Park, Stapylton, Homeview, Waterford, Loganholme and Yatala areas. However we also offer phone consultations for your convenience, see more about Booking Appointments here.

We offer a 15-minute complimentary phone session with one of our experienced counsellors. Find out how we can equip you with strategies to improve your willpower so you can succeed in your life goals.