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My “Use ’em If You Got ’em” Challenge


In yesterday’s article (Motivated, Wise, Productive) I mentioned a willpower challenge I’m starting, and it deals with bringing together a lot of skills from this site. If I succeed with this experiment,¬†it should provide some¬†useful findings–and if I fall on my butt, that should at least provide a little amusement.

You’ve probably noticed that this site offers a lot of tools for developing and using willpower, like emotional antidotes, flow, idea repair, feedback loops, and so on. But there are at least two major barriers between being familiar with those tools and using them all the time in everyday life: one is that knowing is not the same thing as doing, and the other is that it’s very problematic to try to pursue more than one goal at a time. Sure, I know a lot of great willpower tricks (like 24 Ways to Stop Feeling Hungry), but it still takes time, attention, and resignation to use those tricks.

And yet … every time I miss an opportunity to use my self-motivation skills, it’s disappointing. My primary goal right now is using organization and time management to get more writing work done, and that’s been very useful and important to me. But that means my other goals–like having a more orderly home and improving on my fitness–have had to wait on the sidelines for quite a while, and of course I’m impatient. So I theorized that if I could get into a habit of using my immediate willpower skills every time a willpower issue came up, even if it wasn’t in the course of pursuing my main goal, then I might make a lot of progress on those secondary goals and in fact on any goal I had clearly outlined and understood well without having to take on more than one goal at once per se.

The problem, of course, is forming the habit of using all those skills. Forming habits means repeating a behavior on purpose, and it’s necessary to do that daily for months before the habit typically sets in. So my challenge is this: every time a difficult willpower situation comes up, I’ll try using one of the techniques I know to deal with it. If I succeed, great. If I succeed in a surprising, interesting, or unusually powerful way, I’ll make a note about it in a special journal. If I fail, I’ll make a note about it that same journal and figure out what tool I could have used so that I’ll be prepared last time.

There are pitfalls here: this discipline might take too much focus away from my main goal, which wouldn’t be acceptable. Or it might just be that preparation (meditation, planning, etc.) is so important that in-the-moment techniques won’t get me where I need to go. Regardless, I’m planning to find out. Off I go on my adventure: wish me luck!

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