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A Quick Shot of Willpower in the Morning?

About the site

Thinking carefully about how I’ve been writing for this site so far, it’s come to my attention that I’ve been writing differently from most blogs out there with a practical theme: instead of posting brief items, I’m tending to write entire articles. Of course, these are complicated subjects we’re talking about, but it occurs to me that you, Honored Reader, may very often be coming by with just a little time to spare, and may not be available or inclined to dig in and examine things in such detail all at once.

So as an experiment, I’m going to switch to a new format for a while, posting much shorter pieces with the same kind of information, just broken up into smaller subjects. I’ll also be posting on a regular schedule, and I should have that figured out soon.

Will this make the site more useful to you? Any opinions on short vs long, regular vs less predictable, in-depth vs smaller pieces of information? Do pictures matter to you in making the site more appealing to look at?

I’d be very grateful to hear your comments and preferences: you could add a comment to this post or write me through the contact form at the bottom of the column to the right.

An update, Wednesday, July 29th: As of this week, I’ll be posting at about 6am on each and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning (mostly by writing and scheduling the posts in advance, of course), with occasional extra posts sprinkled in.

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How do people do that?

About the site

My older sister, Su, was a mystery to me in one particular way for many years. Here’s the mystery: all the time we were growing up, Su had a modest weight problem that, I think, really bugged her. The year she graduated from college, she moved to New York City and took an administrative job at Cooking Light magazine (she has since moved up through theĀ ranks to become an editor of a sister magazine).

From a chapel ceiling by Correggio

Four or five years after Su moved to New York, there was a change in her: she started eating differently, getting more exercise, and from what I could see, thinking differently. I remember, for instance, how enthusiastic she was about a particular brand of popsicle that fit in really well with the kinds of meals she was planning.

And in due time, her weight problem was gone. Su became downright svelte–and has continued in an extremely healthy lifestyle ever since.

The great mystery to me was how Su became so powerfully motivated: she acquired focus, discipline, and enthusiasm for her goals that she hadn’t had before. This has always struck me as impressive, even a little heroic. How do people do that? I wondered for a long time. And although I learned what some of the pieces to that puzzle were and years later even made my own fitness transformation, for a long time it was just a hypothetical question. It didn’t occur to me for quite a while that there might be a real answer to it, if I broke the question down into its key elements.

But in doing research on a book project, it became clear to me that I needed an answer for this question, the question of how people become motivated to achieve what has always been beyond them in the past. And there must be an answer, because people like Su did it. So I started researching, and thinking, and taking notes, and rapidly pieces of the puzzle began to become clear, some of them pieces that I had already turned up over 8 years of reading and studying about cognitive psychology and related topics but just hadn’t realized had to do with self-motivation. Soon I decided I needed to put aside my previous book project for a while and instead begin shaping a book about self-motivation.

Each insight led me on to more clues, and I began investigating tangental subjects–neuropsychology, schema therapy, even body language–that yielded more answers. I began working systematically on my own self-motivation with goals that were important to me, and later began doing a little bit of coaching for friends who wanted to work on their own self-motivation.

And since I think about this subject every day, and am turning up more information than I’ll even be able to fit in that single book, I started this site.

This site is not about motivating others; that’s a different topic, a question of management and communication and strategy and interpersonal relations. And it’s not about inspiration. There are any number of people who can offer inspiration or experiences that will charge us up for a day or a week, to help give a motivational push.

Instead, this site is about the specific mechanics behind how we become motivated, and about what specific techniques we can use to make those mechanics work in our favor. It draws on many books, on psychological studies, on personal experience, on my coaching work, and on my discussions with other people about their own lives. And because I hope to show the inner workings of self-motivation, how the parts fit together, where the power comes from and how it’s transmitted, I’m calling this “The Willpower Engine.”

I’m always looking for comments: questions, ideas for research, contact from people who are interested in the subject, post suggestions, and so on. Willpower is a complex subject, but it’s one that’s well worth mastering, and for me, one that’s well worth talking to people about.


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