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Is Your Will Power Gone? Do You Need It Anyway?

Will PowerWorking with clients to develop more self-control is one of the major goals of almost all coaching relationships. It is not only an extremely important virtue but also the most important skill someone can bring to bear on goal accomplishment or achievement. Another way to say this is that self-control, or will power, is one of the qualities that must be present if someone is going to succeed on any regular basis.

One of the statements that was instrumental in my choice to start coaching and go back to school was by W. Timothy Gallwey in his book The Inner Game of Tennis. It essentially suggested that knowing what to do was not the problem for most endeavors. You certainly need to have skills, experience, and knowledge to be successful, but the real and more common problem is getting yourself to do what you already know. In other words, you have to show up and keep at it for there to be a successful result. Repeatedly, I saw myself and others fail at goals and tasks by giving up or running out of steam…another way to say it is that I “lacked the will power to do the things I knew needed to be done.” I did not need to be told what to do; I just needed to do it. Seems simple enough, right?

It is not. Self-regulatory behavior is a complex, multidimensional process involving attitude, cognition, and knowledge. Many see the lack of will power as a sign of weakness or a character flaw, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Will power is a resource just like physical strength or endurance and subject to many of the same influences. For example, researchers have found that self-regulation or will power is a self-depleting resource and the more you use it, the more likely it is to fail. In other words, maybe working harder and harder works against us rather than for us, and it may be useful to try another approach.

In the next few weeks, I will be going over this concept in detail and explain how you can start to take control of your regulating behavior. It will make a big difference.