“Sometimes, you’ll be in situations where you’ll be triggered to act against your desires and goals. Rather than relying on willpower, you’ll need to create an automated response for how to deal with challenges. In other words, you’ll need to create a trigger for the trigger. Once you get triggered to self sabotage, that very trigger triggers you to do something more positive. Sound complex? It’s not. This is called implementation intentions” – Willpower doesn’t work

We all have goals. And we think motivation and willpower are the most important things that help us stay on track and achieve our goals. But we might be wrong. Benjamin Hardy – the author of the book “Willpower doesn’t work” reveals in his book that willpower isn’t the key to helping us achieve our goals and the key could be a simple technique called Implementation Intentions. “Implementation intentions come down to knowing ahead of time exactly what you’ll do if you veer off course, as well as defining precisely what veering off course means for you. It’s planning to fail so you can proactively respond. One way to apply implementation intentions is to predetermine the conditions in which you will quit working toward your goal”

For instance, when ultramarathon runners set out on a strenuous run, they regularly set parameters around what it’ll take for them to quit: “If I completely lose my vision, I’ll stop.” The point is to set a benchmark for failure and an action plan if we hit it. That’s because if we don’t predetermine the conditions in which we’ll stop, we tend to quit prematurely. Most of us stop at about 40% of our actual capacity. When things get difficult, our mind goes into survival mode and we begin craving dopamine hits. That’s why many of us stress eat or compulsively check social media or find ways to distract ourselves in the middle of doing difficult tasks.

Implementation intentions is not about just having a “quit plan” but also an “If then” response. For example: If I’m tempted to check my email while working, then I’ll get out of my seat and do twenty push-ups or If my meeting runs over and I don’t have time to workout this evening, then I’ll wake up early tomorrow and run or If I eat fast food for lunch, then I’ll stop by the store and buy some salads for dinner. The “if–then” response gives us a clear plan for overcoming our distractions. We can’t control the little temptations and urges that happen to us, but we don’t have to be a victim of them either when we put the If- then plan in action.

“Moreover, studies have found that implementation intentions can strongly and consistently improve time management. Because planning for the worst sets you up for reality. Rarely are the conditions perfect. And if you have a plan for what you’ll do when things fall apart, you won’t act in a reactive and unconscious manner.Instead, you’ll confidently and consciously stick with your plan. You know why you set that plan in the first place, because you have goals that are worth way more to you than a short-term dopamine boost. And having a plan – even one where you plan to fail—is motivating and clears the mental fog between you and your goals. The combination of enhanced mental clarity, boosted motivation, and a heightened sense of control is a potent cocktail against negative triggers and temptations. Perfection is certainly not the goal. But why not be proactive about living your highest values and intentions? Why become the unintentional product of a goal-conflicting environment? Why live a life of regret? If you’re serious about living to the highest level, you need to plan for the worst and know exactly how you will respond”

Motivation and Willpower are short lived and don’t lead to persistent actions. If we really want to achieve our goals, then we need to have a plan for exactly when and how we are going to achieve them despite our distractions.