Willpower Workout #3: Overcoming Offense

August 26, 2020

Willpower workout 1 focused primarily on taxing the mind (could you focus enough to type accurately and quickly while doing a very boring task). Willpower workout 2 focused on taxing the body while requiring a steady level of concentration. In willpower workout 3, we’re going to push the limits of your emotions.

As you consider whether to do this workout, you’ll likely face different feelings and thoughts than you have the previous two days. On day 1, you probably thought, “Is this really worth it? What a waste!” And on day 2, you likely thought, “Ok, wow, this going to be exhausting!”

Today, you are going to have to wrestle with the feelings that arise when you expose yourself to someone and some ideas that offend you and overcome them so you can respond with kindness. There’s a good chance your mind will jump to many reasons why you shouldn’t do this, and unlike the previous two days where the excuses have centered on it being hard and useless, today your mind will jump to real excuses that it hopes will actually convince you to bow out.

One of those will be the excuse that this workout holds no practical relevance to your professional life. That’s wrong. We constantly must work productively with those with whom we don’t agree. We must go along with directives we don’t support at times – and critically, bring a positive and productive attitude to the work.

Push through the emotional resistance and do this. It’s important for society that we as people are capable of doing this.

Day 3 Willpower Workout:

  1. Think of someone whose ideas deeply offend you. When you hear or read this person’s words, you are “triggered.”
  2. Find something they have written or a video or podcast they have shared that contains content that provokes you.
  3. Read, watch, or listen to it.
  4. Then, come up with three encouraging things you can say about this person.
  5. Extra Credit: Share these encouragements publicly either directly with the person or on social media.

I know this last step may be too much for many of you. And, to be fair, there are legitimate reasons why step 6 may be unsafe for some of you, given the current state of our culture, which gets people fired for a retweet. Try to push past this and do it anyway, by which I mean, don’t use that as an easy excuse not to do it.

If you do skip step 6, find someone you know well who is safe and who generally agrees with your perspective, and share the encouraging words with them.

Evaluating Your Workout

Today’s evaluation is less about quantifying your productivity throughout the exercise and more about becoming self-aware of your emotions as you proceed through the workout. Take some time to reflect on and journal your answers to these questions:

  1. How did you feel after reading/listening/watching something from this person?
  2. What did you want to do at that point?
  3. How difficult or easy was it to come up with three encouragements for this person?
  4. What strategies did you use to generate three?
  5. How did you feel after coming up with the encouragement? How was this different from how you felt in question 1?
  6. How did you feel about doing step 6? Why did you feel this way?
  7. How did you feel after completing step 6?

Willpower Workout in Action:

I liked that this workout made me feel uncomfortable. I had to wrestle with feelings about the content I viewed and then the internal resistance I felt to the idea of sharing my encouraging statements publicly. At the same time, I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it was to come up with three encouraging statements. This taught me that I likely have a number of overlapping views or values with even the people I disagree with on my core beliefs.

Check it out below:

When you finish this workout, give yourself a hand! You’re pushing back against a rising tide in culture, so this is especially difficult.

This is day 3 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: