Relying on willpower to make a change or to get things done might work in the short term. However, for any accomplishment that is sustainable in the long term, relying on willpower is a failed approach.
"Where there is a will there is a way" goes the popular proverb. While this is true in the sense that determination and persistence are more likely to yield results, such an approach can lead to burnout in the long term.
Of course, strong willpower can see you through particularly tough challenges, which is the point of the proverb. However, in normal day-to-day life, you shouldn't have to draw on reserves of willpower to get things done.
Think of it this way. If you are cruising along the highway and you want to overtake the vehicle in front of you, you may need to step on the accelerator to increase your speed until you have completed the overtake, after which you can go back to cruising. The acceleration, of course, demands a lot more effort from your car compared to the effort required for cruising. Ideally, you want to be cruising for most of your journey as it is easier on both you and the car.
The same is true when it comes to achieving goals. If you need to apply willpower in order to achieve something, such as giving up a bad habit or learning a new skill, it ends up taking a lot out of you and you are unlikely to carry on with such efforts in the long term.
To put it simply, it is much easier to accomplish something that you want to and much harder to accomplish something that you have to. If you want something enough, you take willpower out of the equation and you will be in cruise mode in your journey to achieving your goals.
Here, I illustrate this with 3 approaches:
1. The Sweetener
Everyone hates chores. Doing the dishes, vacuuming the house, cleaning the windows... who exactly likes to do any of this? Well, maybe you do. Maybe you should. If you can bring yourself to like a chore, it will feel less like a chore. How can you achieve this? There are many ways to bring yourself to like a task. One approach is what I would call the sweetener.
If you are someone who likes tea or coffee, you most likely add sugar to it, or a sweetener. If you didn't add your sweetener, you wouldn't like the drink as much. In fact, you believe that you like tea or coffee when in fact you wouldn't really like it much if not for the sweetener. Similarly, while doing chores, you need to add something to make the experience more palatable. For example, listening to your favourite songs while doing the dishes. In time, you will actually look forward to doing the dishes just so that you can listen to your music.
2. The Motivator
Learning a new skill, such as playing the piano, requires a lot of patience and practice. It requires even more patience and practice to become good at it. Therefore, if you don't enjoy the process of learning and rely solely on willpower to apply your efforts, you are most likely to give up after some time. A better approach to learning a new skill is what I would call the motivator.
The key to learning a new skill is to enjoy the process. When deciding to learn something new, you should be clear on why you want to learn it. Maybe the new skill increases your earning potential, maybe it helps you make more friends, or maybe you just enjoy it as a hobby. When you are clear on the 'why' or the end goal, the learning process becomes much easier as you know that you are getting closer to what you want. The 'why' becomes the motivator and this, in effect, makes willpower redundant in your learning efforts.
3. The Disabler
Once you have formed a habit, it is not easy to give up. This is why the cultivation of good habits is one of the keys to being productive as you would have conditioned yourself to be productive. On the other hand, a bad habit, or any habit that impedes you from achieving what you want, must be given up. One approach to do this is what I would call the disabler.
If you want to stop a habit, then you need to remove the ability to do it. For example, if you have the habit of looking at social media on your phone every 5 minutes and you want to stop doing so, then you could keep your phone where you can't easily get to. If that doesn't work, you could uninstall the social media app or just turn your phone off for a few hours. The more often you disable the action, the more likely you are to eventually come off the habit.
Although I have given some examples for when to use the sweetener, the motivator, and the disabler, these 3 approaches can be mixed and matched to get optimum results. You can use a sweetener to ease you into the habit of learning a new skill or a motivator for doing chores, or even a disabler to prevent you from lounging around so that you spend more time learning a new skill or getting your chores done. Whatever works for you.
So, where there is no will, there is a way.