Writing and Willpower

I recently joined a blogging group in Automattic where we share our experiences about blogging. One of the reasons I decided to jump in is that I keep falling off the “blogging bandwagon”. I really want to write more, but I seem to fail to find the time or willpower to actually do it. I’ve been struggling with this ever since I wrote the first blog post.

As I was reading the book “Indistractable”, chapter 8 “Reimagine your Temperament” really spoke to me. Here’s a quick chapter summary:

  • Reimagining our temperament can help us manage our internal triggers
  • We don’t run out of willpower. Believing we do makes us less likely to accomplish our goals by providing a rationale to quit when we could otherwise persist
  • What we say to ourselves matters. Labeling yourself as having poor self-control is self-defeating.
  • Practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend. People who are more self-compassionate are more resilient.

I think this applies really well to my personal approach to blogging, so I wanted to unpack my thoughts on this.

Willpower to write

Master your willpower

The literature out there is undecided. On one hand, the book “The Willpower Instinct” suggests that willpower is a muscle, and the more you train that muscle, the stronger it grows.

However, somewhere in the back of my mind, a counter analogy had developed over the years. If willpower is a muscle, the it can get sore, or traumatized, so whenever I exercise the muscle too much – I deserve a good long break of quality rest, like binge watching Netflix or playing video games. And before you know it – a new unhealthy muscle-relaxing habit has formed.

In his book, Nir suggests that willpower is not like fuel or a muscle, but rather – an emotion.

Michael Inzlicht […] believes that willpower is not finite resource but instead acts like an emotion.

Seeing the link between temperament and willpower through a different lens has profound implication on the way we focus our attention. […] A toddler might throw a temper tantrum when refused a toy but will, with age, gain self-control and learn to ride out the bad feelings. Similarly, when we need to perform a difficult task, it’s more productive and healthful to believe a lack of motivation is temporary than it is to tell ourselves we’re spend and need a break.

Nir Eyal, Indistractable

This was a huge mindset shift for me.

It made me realize, that over the years, I’ve developed poor habits just because of how I was thinking about willpower.

Equipped with this knowledge – I can debunk the “I don’t have the willpower to do anything else productive today” idea completely. I am writing this at 9PM after an extremely stressful day. Normally – this would be my “muscle relaxing time”.

What you say to yourself matters

So my takeaway here is that which ideas you chose to believe is important. Maybe your muscles don’t get sore, and you exercise your willpower a healthy amount each day, if that works for you – that’s great. I’m not here to tell you if one idea is better or more valid than another. However, be aware of your thoughts and the baggage they bring along with them.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right

Henry Ford

Words are important, especially the words that happen in your head. Pay close attention to your thoughts, be curios and don’t take anything for granted.

Because I told myself that willpower is a muscle and my muscle is tired at 9PM – my willpower was totally spent at that time.

It’s okay to fall off the wagon

I often face the typical obstacles – “I can’t find the time” or “I lack willpower” to write. And quickly – that leads to playing the blame game, which eventually leads to a thought that goes something like this “It’s not worth making yourself to write this time, because you’ll fall off the wagon eventually anyway“.

That’s a self-destructive prophecy. And as time moves on – these thoughts become so common that you don’t even realize they’re there. You’re just stuck.

So here’s an other gem from the same book:

A good rule of thumb is to talk to yourself the way you might talk to a friend. Since we know so much about ourselves, we tend to be our own worst critics, but if we talk to ourselves the way we’d help a friend, we can see the situation for what it really is.

Nir Eyal, Indistractable

This is what inspired me to write this blog post.

I’m writing this to you, but also, to myself. It is okay to fall off the blogging wagon, don’t count that as a failure, but rather as a part of the process.

It is only a failure if you allow yourself to think so. If you look at failure as a part of the process, – you can’t lose.

Be kind to yourself.

You can do it

If you’re ever in a situation where you can’t find the willpower or time to write, just remember – it’s all in your head. You’re in control. You can do it.

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