define willpower

Fight Yourself

Fight-Club-Punching-Self

No. Not literally.

To do anything worth doing, you gotta give yourself a swift kick in the ass. Your body and mind will be resisting change the whole way, and it’s your job to put yourself back on the right track each and every time. It’s unavoidable. This is just how people work. No matter how long you’ve been persistent for, you’ll eventually have one bad day.

I read an excellent post on Wait But Why yesterday that really got me thinking. For a long time, I’ve struggled a lot with procrastination. I’ve had some similar ideas from my own experience, but I’ve never seen it explained and illustrated so perfectly.

In short, when we try to do the work that really matters, we often get distracted by instant gratification. We make great, consistent progress once we’re deep into the flow of our work, but moving ourselves from that murky period of self-loathing filled procrastination requires more and more willpower as time goes on.

I won’t get too deep into the content from the article, but I’ve been thinking about this topic for quite awhile. I’ve been working since August of last year to create positive daily habits, and I’ve made more holistic progress since then than any other time of my life. First starting out, though, it was an uphill battle. When I became seriously interested in self-improvement during my second year of college, I had lost around fifty pounds the previous year. Obviously I felt pretty good about it, but I wasn’t sure what the next step was. I had a vague idea of what my priorities and values were at that point, but I was still very naive in my approach to life. I had this vague attitude of not taking life too seriously that was great for creating a positive mindset, but was actually detrimental to building forward momentum in my life.

I ended up spending a lot of time playing video games and watching TV. Pretty much every day I would wake up and do the same old shit. I was making great efforts to get healthier, but my routine for the other aspects of my life were sorely lacking. Basically the only useful skill I learned in my first year of college was how not to be fat; I didn’t have any useful real life skills. I lacked discipline. I figured that one day I’d write a book, but I rationalized a bunch of stupid reasons why I wasn’t writing anything.

Eventually, nearly a year ago, I started writing a journal. I can’t tell you how huge of a step this was for me. Beginning to write down my thoughts sparked a series of changes that I never expected. It’s difficult to stick with a journal at first, but now it’s a permanent part of my nightly routine. If you aren’t already writing one, do it. Do it now. You’ll find yourself coherently expressing for the first time thoughts you’ve been having for a while; not only that, new ideas and feelings and opinions will come to the surface that you never even knew were there. Personally, the biggest benefit I’ve had from writing a journal has been a log of my progress. There were days when all I did was sitting around watching Netflix. Writing out my experiences forced me to examine my life. When you write down, “Today I didn’t do much of anything.” enough times, you start to feel like a piece of shit, which is great motivation. I ended up thinking a lot about the difference between what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing, and eventually I starting making more changes in my life because my journal helped me sort out all the emotional bullshit that was holding me back.

Fighting yourself isn’t easy. Honestly, the only way to do it effectively is to cut yourself off from all distractions. If your phone is distracting you from your work, leave it on silent face-down out of your sight. Refocus your attention entirely on what really matters in your life. Maybe read an actual book instead of scrolling through forums, blogs, and social media.

People tend not to change. Changing is hard, and staying the same is easy. That’s why no matter how far you progress, you still have to fight yourself to keep moving. Luckily, improving ourselves doesn’t have to always be a struggle. Why? Because momentum.

If you spend a week jerking off and watching cartoons all day, on that eighth day you’re really going to want to jerk off and watch cartoons. Your body has been programmed to jump right into that negative routine. Most of us have experienced this with whatever our lazy sin of choice is (Netflix for many of us). Now, you don’t have to give up all your favorite shows, games, and whatever other mindless entertainment gets your rocks off. Just quit all the meaningless bullshit. Quit “just watching something”. If you want to watch every episode of a great show because it’s great, that’s fucking awesome. Do it at night after you’ve gotten some work done, but enjoy that god damn show with vigor! Consuming well-made media is a great way to spend your spare hours, but just watching something to watch something is how fools spend 20 years before finally asking themselves where their life went. Think about what you’re doing. Think about why you’re doing it. 

When you look at yourself and realize that many of your idle instantly gratifying actions provide no benefit to your life or your goals, you’ll have two choices: either keep feeding yourself empty entertainment and self-loathing, or buckle down and get some work done. I only have to spend a few hours productively before I start to feel really good about it. There’s no better feeling than finally relaxing after spending the day the right way. Make the choice when you wake up to instantly jump into that positive routine of self-development. Take a break after 4 hours spent practicing skills, learning information, and exercising your body. Spend the time to truly commit to improving yourself just a little bit. Report back to me with how fucking awesome you feel.