Motivation Needs Purpose Not Willpower

Copyright: dimol / 123RF Stock Photo

Motivation has nothing to do with willpower.  If you really want to achieve the objectives that you have for yourself, you have to move beyond thinking that it takes stronger willpower. Rather you need to find a bigger driver to help you stay on course; what you need is motivation based on your purpose.

To clarify, willpower suggests that you are using the power of your will to do what you think you should do. It suggests that you are in a constant struggle against what you really want to do, in order to do what you think you should do. While this may sound like an acceptable solution, in fact it is not.

The problem with using willpower, as your fuel for making change or pushing yourself to do what you believe is the best course of action for yourself, is that it is not sustainable.  Willpower takes a lot of mental energy.  Researchers have found that willpower and the energy that feeds it, doesn’t last. The more that you have to force yourself to not do something that you really think that you want to do, the harder it becomes for you to make decisions on a continuous basis.  This means that you are more likely to fall back into your old routines or make bad choices because that is what is most convenient.

Instead if we want to motivate ourselves seriously, we need to know why we are committed to the course of action we want to take.  We need to be clear about our purpose or our why.  Consistently reminding ourselves of that fact when we want to give up, provides a greater encouragement for us to stay the course. Eventually it strengthens our resolve to make the changes we need to make and we get to the stage where we are no longer fighting against what we see as our natural preference because our preference changes.


Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance.  She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.  For more of her writing visit


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.