During the first three weeks, we have primarily stretched our willpower by engaging in tasks with characteristics that make them difficult cognitively, physically, and/or emotionally. Aside from willpower workout 5 and willpower workout 14, we haven’t introduced personal pre-conditions that leave us feeling depleted before we begin a challenging task. As we close out week three and begin week four, get ready for workouts that start you in a state of depletion.
In this workout, we are going to force ourselves into a state of psychological depletion by meditating on a past event that is likely to be discouraging to us. Discouragement saps motivation because motivation is generally linked to the idea that doing a certain action will yield a beneficial reward. When you’re discouraged, your confidence that any action you take will produce something rewarding goes down. As a result, you need more willpower to get work done when you’re feeling discouraged.
Here is how we’re going to workout this willpower muscle:
Day 15 Willpower Workout:
- Pull out a journal.
- Write or record an entry for this prompt: What has been your most significant failure in the last 3-5 years? Describe the event in detail.
- Write or record answers to these follow-up questions: How did this failure make you feel? How did this failure affect your present circumstances? Your future?
- Put your journal away.
- Think of someone you have wronged in even the slightest way. For example, maybe you didn’t return someone’s text or email, or it could be more serious: maybe you betrayed a friend’s trust.
- Reach out to this person, confess what you did wrong, apologize, and ask for their forgiveness.
You may recognize what we’re doing in this workout. In case you don’t, here’s what is happening. Steps 1-4 likely cause most people to feel discouraged. It is hard work psychologically to relive a failure and reflect on how it made you feel. Doing that work depletes you and may put you in an emotional state of discouragement, from which it is more difficult to feel motivated.
Then, in steps 5-6, we’re re-exposing you to a personal failure and asking you to do the hard work of talking to someone you hurt, humbling yourself to admit what you did was wrong, and leaving yourself vulnerable to their decision to forgive you or not.
Evaluating Your Workout:
- Was it hard to journal about a failure?
- How did you feel after the journaling exercise? How motivated did you feel in general?
- Were you able to complete steps 5-6?
- Was it hard? If so, what made it hard?
- What did you learn about what it takes to remain productive in the face of discouragement?
Willpower Workout in Action:
For this workout, I will post an update on Twitter.
This is day 15 of a 40-day journey to explore your limits. If you’d like to receive a daily email with the willpower workout of the day, you can sign up here to start at Day 1 with the first workout:
If you’d prefer to jump in where Matt is right now and then make up the other workouts on your own schedule, sign up here:
- Day 1: Overcoming Boring Tasks
- Day 2: Concentrating While Taxing Your Body
- Day 3: Overcoming Offense
- Day 4: Staying Productive When You’re Not Seeing Progress
- Day 5: Pushing Past Feeling Depleted
- Day 6: Focusing Amid Distractions
- Day 7: Cold Water Challenge
- Day 8: How to Do Your Least Motivating Task
- Day 9: Going Beyond Failure
- Day 10: Asking For and Giving Constructive Feedback
- Day 11: Beating Disgust
- Day 12: Resisting Bad Habits
- Day 13: Stretching Your Habit-Forming Muscles
- Day 14: Going Without Sleep