When Things Have to Change: How to Find the Willpower to Achieve Your Goals

“When it is obvious the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” ~Confucius

Want to learn my worst fear?

I’ve just come out of the closet, my parents have rejected me, and I am terrified, really, really terrified, because I’m completely alone, and the pain is unbearable.

But it’s not just the rejection that terrifies me—it’s also what happens after that.

There is no one I can turn to for comfort, so my only recourse is a bag full of chips.

Three months and thirty pounds later I’ve yet to leave the confines of my bedroom. I’m wasting away, haunted by dead dreams, dirty dishes, and empty soda cans. This depression is too much. I feel like I’ll never be able to turn things around.

I look in the mirror and don’t recognize this person looking back at me. I’ve resigned myself to a life of sadness, solitude, and self-neglect. It feels as though everything is hopeless and I’ll never to amount to anything in life.

I feel depressed, fear of failing, and lack confidence. This is why Aunt Jamima comforts me more than a new diet. I have become paralysed and obese due to the vicious circle of binging and depression. I’ve completely stopped taking care of myself. I feel like I may as well die because my life is over!

Yikes! How dramatic?

It is actually one of my most fearful fears.

Spoiler alert: Therapy helped me to overcome my depression and lose thirty pounds. My parents are now open to accepting my homosexuality and have come to accept me. But that’s not what this post is about. The post will be about five strategies I used to crawl out of a hole and return to an emotionally and physically healthy place.

If you’re feeling discouraged and unmotivated to create positive change in your life, these five strategies may help you alleviate your emotional triggers, increase your willpower, and achieve your goals.

Strategy #1: Chunking

A lot of people have difficulty completing tasks because they get overwhelmed with all of the details. This can cause paralysis. This is my biggest emotional trigger, so chunking is an excellent way to relieve it and continue with my goals.

Chunking is the process of breaking down a big task into manageable chunks. By chunking, you’ll find that you are more confident and productive and can complete more tasks in a shorter time.

We basically have unlimited willpower (it’s true! See tip #3: Perception), but when presented with a momentous task the brain becomes overwhelmed and says, “ENOUGH! I’M DONE! BRING ME CHIPS!”

When my depression was at its height I had many days where I didn’t feel like going to the gym and hitting the weights. In this state of depression, my mind was focused on the tiring, long workouts I had scheduled ahead, while feeling inadequacy, not up to par with my peers, creeped in. It’s exhausting just thinking about it!

It’s called paralysis by analysis—when you’re overthinking something and you get stuck in a place of inaction. This is when things seem hopeless. After settling down, I get up and go on a Netflix binge. With chips! I feel uncomfortable as my potential is being lost and my waistline shrinks.

Chunking is my way to overcome this inaction. I focus on the task at hand and think, “What is the next right move for me in this moment?”

I tell myself that I’ll go to the gym and I’ll do just a five-minute workout. There is always the possibility to continue exercising if I feel like it. After the first five minutes is complete, I tell myself I’ll do five more minutes. Continue.

After an hour, the resistance to exercise subsides. I’m always in a better mood after I leave the gym, and the emotional triggers that were holding me back oftentimes seem insignificant once my workout is complete and I’ve gotten out of the house.

Strategy #2: Confidence

Confidence can be defined as the trust you place in yourself and your abilities to accomplish your goals. My confidence became almost nonexistent after I came out to my parents, feeling abandoned and alone. To be successful, I would need to rebuild my confidence. Achieving confidence in a task will increase the amount of willpower needed to finish it. Self-doubt, anxiety and fear will start to disappear.

It is possible to improve confidence. It’s not as hard as you might think! Change the way that you think about your goals.

To take an example of my struggle to shed thirty pounds, I experienced extreme anxiety about achieving such lofty goals. I felt insecure and self-doubt, which became debilitating. My feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt made me feel like I was stuck, not able to move forward.

My goal setting was a recipe for disaster.

By breaking my goal into smaller chunks that felt manageable, achievable, and easy to achieve, I was able to find success. My focus shifted from losing 30 pounds to only losing one pound. It is not difficult to lose one pound, and I was confident that this would be enough to help me reach my ultimate goal.

It was important to pay attention to small victories and landmarks. With a mobile fitness app, I started tracking my progress. Virginia Tech research found that visual representations of progress can be a motivator to help you reach your goals.

Another great way to improve your confidence is to track your progress. You will also be able to track your progress and reduce the effort required to adhere to your regimen.

Thanks to my new confidence, my strategically-planned diet, and my training regimen, I was able to lose 30 pounds. It was easy for me to believe in myself and accomplish things I didn’t think possible.

Strategy #3: Perception

When it comes to maintaining your willpower, perception is key. Your chances of success will depend on your perception.

Stanford University recently found that people who believe they have unlimited willpower will have greater willpower than average.

This means that when you believe you have a finite supply of willpower, you’re right! When you believe you have an infinite supply of willpower, you’re right about that too!

Your reality is yours. Your beliefs determine the reality around you. Limitations you place on yourself can also be limiting. If you create a new narrative about yourself in which you can achieve your goals and are empowered, you’ll transform limitations into strength.

Do you remember when I was in my worst depression? When I gained 30 pounds in just three months. I had lost respect for my body and myself. My belief in myself and my abilities was no longer valid. The feeling of despair took control. Deeper and deeper I fell into a deep and severe depression.

I realized that my beliefs were limiting my ability lose weight. If I didn’t believe in myself, how could I expect to achieve anything? Meditation and the support of some great friends helped me shift my outlook from despair to hope.LessThere is hopeFull!

This shift in perspective and newfound love for my body led me to start taking care of it properly. My weight started to drop and I was the successful story that you see today.

Strategy #4: Identity

Our identity shapes how we see ourselves, what we are capable or not, and our responses to emotions.

Are you a smoker? Are you a jogger? Do you feel like a lazy, fat slob? All these are examples of identities that we can create, which either holds us back from success or leads us to it.

Our identity is used to identify our strengths and weaknesses. Did you ever stop to think about how this identity is based out of past experiences—many of which do not even hold true today? If you allow these beliefs to hold you back, you will be unable to reach your potential.

After I gained 30 pounds, I allowed myself to be a victim and felt powerless to make a change. In the end, I realized that I could transform my identity and become empowered. I did this by changing the stories about myself.

I was no longer a victim of circumstances. I took full responsibility and gave up the victim image. Once I chose to stop playing the victim, I directed my energy toward creating the life I’ve dreamed of.

My identity was rewritten to align with my goals and I have made real changes in my life. Also, I was able to reduce the amount of willpower necessary to accomplish my goals. This started me on my path to success.

So I know you’re thinking, “How the hell do I change my identity!?”

Change the stories that you tell yourself. You can flip the script.

I’m reminded of a time when I was trying to quit smoking (for the tenth time). When I had a bad craving I would tell myself things like “I’m not allowed to smoke.” The language I was using—“I’m not allowed”—is of someone who identifies as a smoker. This created a feeling of guilt and gave away my control over the identity I had as a smoker.

I found that by changing the story from “I am not allowed to smoke” to “I do not smoke” I decreased feelings of deprivation. I was able to make a new identity as someone who doesn’t smoke.

I was able to stop smoking by having a new identity. With a little identity shift, I felt empowered and able to change my behavior to reach my goals. I quit smoking successfully. This was a great achievement that I am proud to have accomplished.

Strategie #5: High-level Thinking

There are two levels of thinking that we have: High-level and Low-Level.

The focus of low-level thinking is on HowComplete a task. Short-term goals. Execution of plans.

“How am I going to workout today?” An example of low level thinking is this.

The highest-level thinking focuses on Why?You want to accomplish a task and feel compelled by a sense meaning and purpose. These qualities help you to have the willpower to get through difficult times.

“Why do I want to workout today?” This is an example of high-level thinking.

This high-level thinking focuses on motivation. It re-enforces the belief that working out is what’s best for me. This way of thinking reduces resistance and helps you to achieve your goals.

According to Professor Fujita’s 2006 study, people who are more involved in higher-level thought have higher willpower levels than those who do not engage in such higher-level thoughts.

In a severe depression, I discovered that low-level thoughts were more frequent than higher-level ones. My focus was on the logistics of getting fit, and I felt overwhelmed. This made me feel more depressed. To leave my house just to exercise became a difficult task.

I finally changed my mind about where I wanted to focus. WhyGoing to the gym was an important part of my fitness and health goals. My resistance to getting out of my house was lessened and I found it easier to complete my work-outs as scheduled.

With continued practice I’ve become more mindful of opportunities to choose between high-level and low-level thinking throughout the day. Today I was insatiable for cream in my morning coffee. I’m currently experimenting with intermittent fasting, and one of my rules is no cream till after 4:00pm.

It was a struggle. The struggle was real. I wanted to make the coffee creamier and more delicious. I didn’t care how wrong it was because it felt so right!

As I was about pouring the cream, suddenly I found myself thinking higher. The cream could stop me from achieving my greater goal to be fit, healthy, and inspire others. The cream was less appealing after I thought at a higher level and decided to stop using it.

I was able to break my fast thanks to high-level thinking.


These five strategies—chunking, confidence, perception, identity, and high-level thinking—are all tools to add to your tool box to help you alleviate negative emotional triggers, increase willpower, and ensure you reach your goals.

These methods have been very helpful in my life, and they can also be used to help with other goals that require persistence and determination. These tools can be implemented in your daily life immediately to see the benefits!

Let me know how this works for you—leave a comment in the comments section below!

Timothy James

Timothy is a certified health coach who focuses on mindfulness and simple strategies for weight loss. He’s created a free course to create your own self-care routine and get your mind and body in shape with simple strategies you can use today. To get your instant access, click here and find out how you can stop stress and anxiety from exhaustion.

Participate in the discussion! You can click here to comment.

Tiny Buddha published the post When Things Need to Change: How You Find the Willpower To Achieve Your Goals.

Related Posts