Carola Becker

Carola Becker


Willpower is not your friend – here’s what works!

When I deliver talks to leadership teams and board members and introduce food and lifestyle changes, there are usually at least five people in the room saying: ‘That all sounds great but it doesn’t work for me  – I just don’t have the willpower.’ Interestingly, there are situations where willpower is a really good tool to use. But does it work in this context?Let’s look at the different situations. Willpower is great when three criteria are being met: external motivation, a clear deadline and immediate consequences:

A good example is something rather simple like a tax deadline. We remember: external motivation, clear deadline, immediate consequences.

You are externally motivated – I haven’t met many people yet who have their tax returns on top of your list of favourite things to do! You have a hard deadline from HMRC and you certainly face immediate consequences – most likely there will be a fine if you are late. That’s a perfect way to apply willpower: you do the job, it’s done. Goal achieved. Move on  to the next task!

But when we look at making ongoing changes, other strategies are required. After years of working with my clients I can safely say: Willpower doesn’t work in this context!

And this is why we talk about other great strategies how you can support your goals!

Finding a strategy that works for you means you can forget about willpower! You will turn away from willpower towards an automatic behaviour. Here is my favourite: 100% works better than 96%

It’s the ‘cold turkey’ way of doing something. This works really well when you like to create a new habit. Here’s an example: Say, you decide you want to stop eating chocolate but you work with a 96% rule, give yourself a bit of slack ‘on occasion’.

What happens? You are constantly asking yourself if today would be the day where you can break the rules and have a chocolate bar. Not helpful. Because you are not able to create a habit when you confuse your brain with conflicting messages.

It’s also not only tiring to deal with the thought permanently, but most likely the 4% you allow yourself will soon turn into 10%, then into 20% and then you give up altogether.

If you have one clear goal and 100% commitment to it, you can simply forget about it. If you decide to give up chocolate, you don’t question your decision anymore.

Your mind is set and committed. 

And it’s not only about giving something up. This does work in the same way when you would like to add something – like a daily meditation or more time with your family.

How does that sound? Would that be the approach for you?

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