How To Will Yourself To Success

By: James P. Krehbiel

One aspect of the human dilemma is gathering the strength and courage to break through the impasse of personal problems consisting of avoidance and fear — the twin killers of personal growth. Why is it that some people can motivate themselves and accomplish everyday tasks and set long-term goals? On the contrary, why is it that some individuals avoid, procrastinate, and waste valuable time agonizing about their inability to carry out self-rewarding behaviors?

The implication of "willing ourselves to success" affects every aspect of our life. Some of us desire to lose weight, change jobs, exercise, make new friends, or learn new skills, but live encapsulated in an impasse of our own choosing. Why do we choose the road of self-defeating behavior even though we know that a different course of action will bring us to our desired goals and a sense of success?

The will to act must be greater than the power to resist. In other words, the urge to accomplish a task must gain inner momentum until its force becomes irresistible. For some, this means a mounting cascade of frustration and anger, a sense of being fed-up with the status-quo. The constructive anger to achieve drowns out the inner voice of inertia. Often, people tell me that an inner voice keeps hounding them until the clamoring sounds of change are strong enough to break the impasse.

Often people will resist the road to change because of a pattern of prior failure. They might say, "I've tried that before and it didn't work." They may view the motivation to change as a dichotomous process. "Either I'm 100% successful or I'm a total failure." They may overlook the subtle changes that are necessary to complete a task. Goals may be unrealistic and set the stage for failure. An additional obstacle may occur when an individual starts down the road of progress and faces a period of regression. The regression may be viewed as a monumental setback rather than a part of the growth process and may lead one to completely give up on the new task.

Those who are unmotivated tend to harbor self-blame. They will blame themselves for their inability to change or will chastise themselves for any behavioral setback. With a mind-set of victim-posturing, the unmotivated individual will say, 'It's no use; no matter how hard I try, I always come up short; it's just my nature." Self-blame becomes an excuse for not trying. The self-centered focus is on personal failure rather than the impetus to move forward in spite of failure.

Often people remain unmotivated because they fear success. Those who contemplate losing weight might say, "What if I lost weight and started to look more attractive? How would that affect the way others view me?" My friend might want to establish an intimate relationship with me and I don't know if I am ready for that!" The fear of success often keeps one tied to the security of the past.

The foundation for willing oneself to success begins with the process of setting goals. An individual must start with identifying what he really wants and needs. For example, our thinking about our lives must be reframed to reflect a positive way of perceiving events. A friend who was unhappy with her life once told me, "I know that I am withdrawing from people and I believe that it is bad for me." What she really needed to say is, "I need to feel connected to other people; I want to find a way to make that happen." How we frame our thoughts helps us to determine ways in which we will act on them.

It is very difficult to move forward when you don't know where you are going. Setting realistic goals is essential to increasing our self-motivation. Goals need to be identified and 'chunked down" into smaller steps. This makes getting motivated less overwhelming and easier to manage.

Giving yourself permission is an important ingredient to creating motivation. Often, people lack a sense of inner permission because they have relied on others to lead their lives. The fact that they have depended on others to direct their life makes them feel incompetent and thwarts the prospects of forward-moving change.

Fully functioning people don't wait, they don't procrastinate, but they act. Life is too short. The fear of passing time may give us a sense of urgency about changing our life and making things right. Such a feeling of urgency may create the conditions necessary for changing the quality of our character and behavior. We don't have forever to will ourselves to success. Today is the day to redeem that which we have put on hold.

James P Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC, CCBT is an author, a contributing writer for, and cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He can be reached through his website at

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