Willpower is the power to make decisions. The power of choice.

Work will win when wishy-washy wishing won’t (Thomas S. Monson)

How did you do so far with your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re like most, you’ll find that your resolutions go in one year and out the other. Why is that? What’s wrong with our willpower? Willpower is the power to make decisions. The power of choice. Yet, we don’t feel powerful. We feel like powerless victims. Why’s that? Well, it goes back to our childhood. You probably remember when you wanted a new toy and mommy said, “No!” How about the time you wanted to play with your friends, but your parents said, “You’re going to Aunt Mary’s today!” Or the time you wanted to stay up late, but were sent to bed? Where’s the power of choice? To a child, there isn’t any. The child feels like a helpless pawn. Those feelings remain in the subconscious of adults and result in wishy-washy goals that are halfheartedly pursued. To reclaim our power of choice, we have to force ourselves to recognize we are no longer children, and we are responsible for our own lives. We can begin to use our power of choice by deciding to use it.

How to Strengthen Your Will

1. Refocus. Perhaps you have some chores around the house or office that you’ve been putting off. But what if I were to pay you $5,000 to do the chores today? Chances are, you would suddenly find the energy to do them! This proves that you already have the power. The only missing ingredient is the motivation to use that power. As soon as I offered you the money, you switched your focus from the unpleasantness of your chores to the pleasure of receiving $5,000 in spending money. There lies the secret of unlocking motivation. Focus on the pleasure you will receive on reaching your goal instead of thinking about the effort you have to make.

Imagine how athletes feel after winning the Gold Medal. All the sacrifices were worth it! As the ribbon is placed around their neck, they will think, “This is what life is meant to be!” Shouldn’t we be experiencing the exhilaration and joy of reaching our personal goals? Shouldn’t we be experiencing what life is meant to be? Well, we can, you know. It’s simply a matter of making the right choices. Stop thinking about sacrifices, unpleasantness, and effort, and start thinking about your unlimited potential, the boundless opportunities, and the joy of victory.

2. Change your attitude. Although it’s possible to succeed by gritting one’s teeth and pushing ahead, it is usually more effective to draw your goals to you by the magnetic power of the right attitude. Cheerfully accept there is no gain without pain. Recognize that the difficulties that lie before you are small matters compared with the power that lies within you. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks as each one is a new lesson that will bring you closer to your goal.

3. Exercise, exercise, exercise. That is, to develop self-discipline, practice doing small tasks that you are afraid of or find unpleasant. With repetition you will develop good work habits. With good work habits, you will be able to perform larger and larger tasks, greater and worthier goals.

4. Convert frustration and anger to positive energy. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, a series of setbacks results in anger and frustration. If so, use this energy to succeed. Say to yourself, “I’m not going to take it anymore. I will not allow these setbacks to hold me back. I’m determined to succeed!” As Muhammad Ali said, “Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win.” The key to using frustration and anger in a positive manner is to focus on solutions instead of the pain you’re feeling.

5. Practice persistence.
Keep plodding ahead. The winner is not always the fastest, but the most persistent. Take it from one who knows, B. C. Forbes, who said, “No man can fight his way to the top and stay at the top without exercising the fullest measure of grit, courage, determination, resolution. Every man who gets anywhere does so because he has first firmly resolved to progress in the world and then has enough stick-to-it-tiveness to transform his resolution into reality. Without resolution, no man can win any worthwhile place among his fellow men.” What is the difference great men and little men.? What is the difference between the impossible and the possible? The answer to both questions is a person’s determination. For as J. R. Todd wrote, “The wayside of business is full of brilliant men who started out with a spurt, and lacked the stamina to finish. Their places were taken by patient and unshowy plodders who never knew when to quit.”

6. Be willing to work.
I think you will agree it’s time to give up our wishy-washy wishes, roll up our sleeves, and get to work. After all, as James Allen says, “In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of effort is the measure of the results.” If we can get past the pain, we will achieve the gain. When we see someone at the top of a mountain, they didn’t fall there. They climbed there. They made the effort. So, what are we going to do? We’re going to tap into our hidden resources, awaken our potential, and make the choices that will enable us to experience what life is meant to be!