Willpower workout: Pushing through when depleted

Willpower Workout #5: Pushing Past Feeling Depleted

August 28, 2020

As we have moved through willpower workouts this week, we have exposed you to different ways to stretch your willpower. In the lead-in to willpower workout 1, we mentioned three dimensions that are worth considering:

  1. Task characteristics
  2. Personal pre-conditions
  3. Intensity vs. duration

In this fifth workout, we’re going to tap into the personal pre-conditions dimension. You have been able to do the first four workouts whenever you want. And some of you have taken advantage of that freedom, tackling the workout early in the morning when most people’s willpower is at its highest levels for the day.

In this workout, that won’t be allowed. The point is for you to feel drained, exhausted, and depleted when you attempt an otherwise pretty unchallenging task.

Day 5 Willpower Workout:

  1. Wait until it’s Friday or whatever day represents the end of your work week.
  2. Wait until at least 8pm your time.
  3. Look around your living quarters and identify at least 3 things you should do to clean up, organize, or fix your home that collectively will take you at least an hour. This could include tasks as simple as emptying the dishwasher or folding the day’s clothes and putting them away – or it could mean going through everything in your “junk drawer” or straightening up the garage.

Try to avoid doing tasks you do every Friday night. For example, if you always sweep the floor on Friday nights, then do that and other new tasks.

If you have plans this Friday night, do this when you get home and build some extra willpower muscle.

Evaluating Your Workout:

1. When did you feel the most internal resistance to doing this workout: before you started, in the beginning, middle, or toward the end of the workout?

For most people, the most difficult part is getting started. And this makes sense because the tasks themselves are not very difficult. It’s just that you feel that you have nothing left to give to even the simplest task. The reality is that you do have quite a bit left (at least in 99% of situations), but you’ve reached a perceived limit to your willpower.

I used to give myself Friday nights off from cleaning up after dinner, which, with 3 young kids, often ends up being a 30-60 minute process. To build my willpower, I started intentionally doing the full clean-up on Friday nights. Doing so has changed my perception of my limit. Now I know that when I feel depleted at that level that I can easily muster up quite a bit more capacity.

2. Did you have a similar experience doing this workout?

3. How did you convince yourself to do this workout?

4. How did you feel after completing the workout?

When I clean up on Friday, I generally feel like I’ve accomplished something significant. It surprisingly sets the tone for the rest of the night even though I do the same thing pretty much every other night of the week. But when we push past what felt like a limit and come out successful, it redefines how we perceive and interact with the world.

Did you experience this?

Willpower Workout in Action:

In the video below, I talk through how I was feeling leading up to the workout and what got me through it. I ended up going an extra 30 minutes past the time because I started building psychological momentum, a powerful force that can kick in once we get started on a task.

This is day 5 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:

Past Workouts: