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Motivation is a 3-Part Formula: The Willpower Equation

Do you have a goal you want to reach? A good habit you want to start? Or a bad one you want to break? Concerned about weight loss, dieting, addictions, stress, disorganization, or a life out of control? To get the boost you need to improve yourself, use the Willpower Equation--a rule-of-thumb formula to prioritize your efforts.


A research organization conducted a personal development survey wherein people were given several scenarios--ranging from crime to financial decisions--and asked to rate their willingness to do them. The result:

1. A total of 3 things significantly affected willpower: Desire, Reward, and Pain.

2. The combination of these 3 drivers accounted for 80% of willpower.

3. Surprisingly, one’s need to complete a task was not significant enough to make the final Willpower Equation. This partly illustrates why people do not stop bad unhealthy habits, even when the need to protect their health is obvious to them.

The findings were boiled down to the following Willpower Equation:

WILLPOWER = 52% Reward + 48% Desire – 26% Pain


Reward: The power of positive reinforcement is old news, yet so many people don’t use it in their lives. Reward accounts for most of one’s will to do something, 52%. Want to get someone, or yourself, motivated? Start here.

Desire: This involves your love and passion to do something, whether you have incentive to do it or not. If you buy into the purpose-driven life philosophy, you’ll understand why desire is such a heavyweight here. People seem to be programmed to do certain things, driven to work hard at goals despite being paid nothing for it.

Dislike your job and can’t give it your all? Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Gravitate toward what you desire, not just what makes the most money, and the willpower will naturally come.

Pain: The things you dislike or perceive as problems with a task are its pains. For instance, some consider the aches and exhaustion from exercise as pain, thus reducing their willpower to do it. The key to overcome this is positive psychology centered on Reward and Desire. Go beyond the "no pain, no gain" thinking. Don’t dwell on the negatives--simply work around them.


Think of a task you need extra motivation to accomplish. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is high and 1 is low, rate your Reward to accomplish the task, then rate your Desire, and finally your Pain. The things you rate a 5 or less for Reward or Desire, or a 5 or more for Pain, are hurting your willpower. List the top 3 Rewards, Desires, and Pains related to the job at hand. For solutions to get the job done, read the points below:

1. Low Reward is due to lack of incentive. Bet on yourself. Make yourself accountable for your actions. Set a reward for completion of the task, treat yourself. Better yet, have someone else treat you, ideally a peer. You can give them the treat to give back to you. Research studies have found that supportive positive peers such as friends or colleagues are the most motivational people in one’s life, more than parents or teachers.

2. Low Desire usually stems from lack of enjoyment and excitement. Combine the low-desire task with a high-desire one. For example, talk to a fun friend or family member on the phone while you do a low-desire chore, or watch your favorite TV show while you exercise. Be creative. Soon, you’ll be looking forward to that chore because it’s linked to something you love to do.

Another strategy to pump up excitement and Desire is to set deadlines. With a concrete due date, you have a target timeline to work on, lighting a fire under you to get the job done.

3. High Pain ratings often come from lack of positive perceptions. Stop focusing on the negatives of the task and only focus on the positives. Free your mind and your butt will follow. Boxer Muhammad Ali was quoted as saying, "The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road; long before I dance under those lights."

Negotiate with yourself. As with any other negotiation opponent who must be persuaded, convince yourself that the task you must do is a beneficial one. Use positive factual evidence to support your case. Prepare a short résumé about the task that, like any effective resume, only stresses the good points and why you can do the job.

4. For big jobs, the sheer size of what needs to be done is perceived as Pain. To cut down the Pain score of a task, cut the task into smaller easier pieces. For instance, plan the steps that need to be done first, second, third, up to the last, then set goals for each step as separate little tasks. Suddenly, the 5.5-mile climb of Mt. Everest turns into a series of easy jobs like climbing X yards to the next ledge.

Divide tasks into smaller easier units of time such as minutes, hours, days, or months. Set deadlines and Rewards for completion of each step you planned.


If you still need help with willpower, try writing your goals down on paper. This makes them more tangible and increases your accountability to do them. Plan them out. Post them somewhere as a daily reminder.

Hire a professional coach who can train you to successfully accomplish your goals fast, guiding you to long-lasting life improvement. If you have ever seen the movie Hitch or the TV show The Biggest Loser then you have seen how effective mentoring coaches can be. I wish you luck with freeing your mind, keeping your New Years resolutions, and achieving your goals.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yes. I will stick to my resolutions this year