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“You’re so lucky,” they say. Wait, what?! This comment is sometimes tied to things that have nothing to do with luck…you’re so lucky that..."you don’t have to worry about your weight”, "you have a great job," "you have such a great relationship," "your dog is so well-behaved," etc. This drives me absolutely bonkers when people say this to me (or when they say it to you).  It drives me nuts because it’s not about LUCK! It’s about discipline, it’s about consistency, and it’s about A LOT of willpower.

Being in good shape or having a great job doesn't arrive in people’s lives because of luck (not typically anyway). The majority of people that you envy because of these things, actually work really hard to attain them (and are likely offended that you attribute their success to luck).

Strong willpower, believe it or not, is not something you’re born with – it’s something you create through consistent discipline. And THIS IS GREAT NEWS - because it means that you can turn what looks like ‘luck’ in other people’s lives, to 'willpower' in your own! I’ve been called ‘lucky’ in the past and can attribute most of that to a very exercised willpower.

Here are my tips for strengthening your willpower muscle…

  1. Plan ahead. Set yourself up for success, not failure. If your goal, for example, requires that you hit the gym a few days a week – plan ahead to make sure it happens! I always schedule my workouts for the week on Sunday. I set a goal of 5 workouts and figure out how to make it work by adjusting around other activities. Goals do not get achieved by happenstance. You have to be purposeful! If you know you sink into the couch as soon as you get home from work, pack your bags in the morning and head straight to the gym!
  2. Accountability can help create consistency…and consistency creates willpower. Find someone to share your goal with…out loud. Really discuss with them the steps you’re going to take to achieve the goal, and ask them to hold you accountable along the way. This doesn’t mean they have to do everything you do – but in some cases it helps! Sometimes just stating the goal out loud encourages you to stay motivated and find willpower.
  3. Define a priority. That’s right just one…in every moment. At each moment in time, there is always something more important than everything else you could be doing. Getting bogged down with multiple priorities leads you to mentally multi-task, causing you to be unproductive/less than effective in all priorities. There is no quick fix in life - small FOCUSED changes over time will lead you to a life of willpower over desires that defeat your goal.
  4. Believe your willpower is unlimited. Research shows that when we teach people that willpower is NOT LIMITED, they show increases in willpower. People who think the opposite are always on the lookout for signs of fatigue, and when they detect it, they slack off. People who understand that willpower is NOT LIMITED may feel tired, but for them this is NOT a sign to give up - it's a sign to dig deeper and find more resources.
  5. Strive to stay consistent about consistency. If you set a goal to do something, do it. If you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there. Consistency allows you to take measurements of your progress. You can’t decide if something works or not until you’ve worked at it consistently for a given period of time (6 months is a good rule of thumb – then tweak it if you’re not seeing the desired results). Consistency turns activities into habits. The more consistent you are, the easier it will get.

Self-discipline is a pattern of behavior that we can create through consistency - where rather than choosing what you want to do; you choose to do what you know you should do. Self-discipline/self-control is the assertion of your willpower over your more basic desires. It’s the inner power that drives you to get out of bed to exercise rather than sleeping in. Willpower is about making daily choices that get you closer to your desired self.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
— Hebrews 12:11

Ohhh and the next time you're tempted to tell someone how 'lucky' they are, let them know you admire their willpower and self-discipline instead (unless they won the lottery, that's likely just luck).