174: Managing Willpower for What Matters Most



Willpower is the ability to control yourself to determine your actions. It allows you (and your team) to accomplish what matters most to you — solving a business problem, losing weight, cornering the market, getting out of debt, etc.

To control many of your actions, you can use selected disciplines to build a powerful habit. But to control other actions in any given day, it requires the power of will — a vital part of the self-management that’s necessary for leadership and personal success.

You and your team need your willpower at full strength to ensure that when you’re doing the right thing, you don’t let anything distract you or steer you away from it. Then you need enough willpower the rest of the day to either support or avoid sabotaging what you’ve done.

Unfortunately, willpower is not on will-call. All of us have a limited supply of willpower each day. Putting it to its best use requires you to manage it.

To put your willpower to work, you need to think about it. Pay attention to it. Respect it. You make doing what matters most a priority when your willpower is its highest. In other words, you give your ONE Thing the time of day it deserves.

In this episode, Jesse shares what he’s learned from chapter 7 of the book The ONE Thing and provides examples of applying the lessons. Tips include:

  • Willpower is a mental muscle that doesn’t bounce back quickly. If you employ it for one task, there will be less power available for the next unless you recharge and refuel.
  • Time your task. Do what matters most first each day when your willpower is strongest. Be careful about if and when you do other activities that tax your willpower, such as:
    • Implementing new behaviors
    • Filtering distractions
    • Resisting temptation
    • Suppressing emotion
    • Restraining aggression
    • Suppressing impulses
    • Taking tests
    • Trying to impress others
    • Coping with fear
    • Doing something you don’t enjoy
    • Selecting long-term over short-term rewards
  • Willpower has a limited battery life but can be recharged with some downtime. It’s a limited but renewable resource. To recharge, identify the activities that help you feel rested and re-energized.
  • To refuel, eat foods that elevate blood sugar evenly over long periods — proteins, healthy fats, and “slow carbs” such as vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes.

Willpower is a timing issue — when you use it first on what matters most, you can always count on it. Don’t spread your willpower too thin. On any given day, you have a limited supply of willpower, so decide what matters and reserve your willpower for it. When you have your will, you get your way.

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