A game of motivation, willpower, and small but consistent change.

Last week I wrote a 90 second post about the power of consistent small change. This week, I decided to post about motivation and it’s cousin willpower. 

Why? Because I discovered the hard way it takes a lot longer to build ‘lasting change’ than I thought.

In fact, 66 days is the average time for a new habit to set in (!) and, because motivation is so fleeting, it’s no wonder people don’t stick to their New Year resolutions!

The game is rigged.  And not in our favour.

But here comes the hack.  Here comes the game of motivation, willpower, and small but consistent change. 


If you’re like me, you use motivation for taking action and geting s**t done.

Great if you’re in the mood and feel like doing it, but what happens when you are not in the mood?  What happens when you need to dig a little deeper?   Then you call on willpower.

That’s OK, except willpower has a limit…it literally runs out.


I like willpower.  Not that I don’t like motivation.  It’s just that motivation is inconsistent.  It comes and goes like the wind.

However, with willpower, it’s either there or it’s not.  You can force yourself, or you can’t, depending on how much you have on the day.

However, it does run out when you have to keep on trying, and I think this (rather dull) graph shows one of the reasons why.


Basically, the more motivated you are to do something the less willpower you use to get it done.  This is great if you’re motivated – but tiring when you are not.

But, the good thing is you can make still make changes in small steps.  And this is the hack.  And when you do, you don’t use up (or depend on), as much willpower to ‘do something’ but still get a benefit.

This is where the small, but consistent approach comes in.

Consistent small change.

If you want to build lasting change (and not, for example, another unused monthly gym membership) then taking small but consistent steps works.

Why?  Because doing something small (but consistently) brings benefit, doesn’t require a massive drain on willpower so it’s more likely to happen, and gets easier over time.

Plus, you actually build up willpower strength, and, done for long enough, something done consistently will become a habit.

That sounds like a winner to me.

An example

Say you want to read one book a week.  That sounds like a hell of a task.  But how about reading a few pages every morning…

Easy when you’re motivated but, even when you’re not, it’s totally achievable with a little willpower.

Not only is it’s more likely to happen because it’s a small thing, you get the benefit from reading, it gets easier with practice, and, as I said above, eventually becomes a habit.

So what?

I like the stratgy because it works for lots of things.

I’ve used it for training for a triathlon, losing weight, and I even used it to write my book Adventures In Happiness. 

Even though I was motivated for the project at the start, this soon disappeared.  But I forced myself to sit and write fifty words every morning.   I kept it small, but consistent, and it worked.

I’m not saying this to show off – just using it as an example.  In fact, it became so engrained when I didn’t sit and write it felt like something was missing from my day!

Crazy, but true.

And as Tony Robbins said – remember it’s not what we do once in a while that shape our lives – it’s what we do consistently. 

I quite like that.




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