The Will to Succeed

 I was struggling to get out of bed today. You know, it was just one of those days where you aren’t motivated to do anything. It’s only Tuesday (as I write this), but it has been a long week. As I lay in bed contemplating sleeping in and just giving up on the day, I was struck hard by the question: what separates those who succeed from those who fail?

I answered myself with the standard issue answers that I think most people gravitate to: education, skills, people management, and experience. “I have all those things,” I told myself, trying to motivate my feet to take that first cold step out of bed. The problem was that I had very little motivation to get up. Except for a hot cup of coffee (which I would first have to make), there was very little happening today. I had a list of things to do, but there was no immediate reward for doing them and they could wait. As my eyes slowly gave into the warm temptation of the blankets and started to drift back to sleep, I was startled by the realization that I could not rely on motivation to keep me going. I needed to improve the strength of my will. After all, it is willpower that helps us manage ourselves; it gives us self-control and keeps us accountable no matter what.

Unfortunately, today’s top leaders, speakers, and trainers talk about motivation instead of will. They explore different ways to motivate themselves (or their employees) with programs, rewards, and incentives. What happens once the goal is met and the reward is handed out? The process of re-motivating starts all over again. Even scarier, what happens when things are not going well, when the rewards aren’t coming in, even though we are still working hard? For many, this brings on confusion, fear, even anger. Focusing on creating success by what motivates you is really a dangerous roller coaster ride without seat belts. If the ride slows down while you’re upside down, you will fall off. Motivation teaches us to work selfishly for personal gain. Motivation teaches us that things are not worth doing unless the reward is big enough. Motivation may be able to force success and trick people into working hard for a while, but it does not build strong character and lasting success. Worse yet, it does not teach us how to deal with diversity, issues, and problems. Motivation quickly runs away when the going gets tough. If all you are relying on to move forward is motivation, you could find yourself stranded in a storm.

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Life is full of tasks that we must accomplish every day without reward. Business owners have to pay bills, parents have to change diapers, teachers have to grade papers, lawyers have to write briefs, and the list goes on. Often times, it is the little things, the unrewarding things, the things that we would never be motivated to do that keeps our lives going. That is why it is so very important that we learn to strengthen our will. A strong will is willing to do whatever it takes to create success; it sees a task that needs to be done and goes for it. A strong will is rewarded by a job well done; it is not selfish and seeks to help others. A strong will sees no difference between a bad day and a good day, because every day is filled with things that must get done. A life built on will versus motivation always wins, because a strong will faces down the tough times and can crawl out of any sized hole that motivation fooled us into jumping down. A strong will keeps us focused on the big picture, whereas motivation has us running around chasing after instant gratification. This morning I was motivated (by the reward of extra sleep) to forget my duties and stay in bed, but my will told me to begin my day, to keep going no matter what. Today, my will taught me a valuable lesson about success. The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is simple: those who succeed are willing to keep going long after the motivation is gone.

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