What’s More Powerful than Willpower?
I was watching a video recently by Ishita Gupta. She’s a young woman who has started an online magazine called Fear.less that highlights the stories of people who have overcome their fears. In this video (click here to see it), she shares how she came to learn environment was more powerful than willpower. This resonated deeply with me. I can look at numerous times in my life where the environment I was in impacted my ability to succeed. Running from Negativity Years ago, I was working at a start-up company with a bunch of fellow young 20-somethings. We were all hired around the same time and were quite close. It was a fun environment in the beginning. But then, the company started to tank and we managed to survive a layoff that cut the staff in half. As you can imagine, the effect this layoff had on morale was deep. In particular, all of the young people had never been through a layoff before, so they immediately became cynical and over-analyzed everything that happened in the office from that day forward. The environment became toxic overnight. I began hating going to work every day. That’s when I heard there was going to be an opening for a person to start traveling the country to do in-person trainings for our customers. I immediately went to my boss and pitched myself for the job. My goal was to get away from my peers who were bringing me down. It worked and I got the job. I was suddenly out of the office and spending time with the people who loved our company. Not only did I enjoy the job, but it gave me the experience I needed to eventually snag an even better position with another company a couple years later. Meanwhile, I slowly watched my peers back at the office either get fired for bad attitudes or quit because they couldn’t handle the negativity. I often look back and thank my lucky stars I decided to remove myself from the undesirable environment I was in. Leaping Towards Positivity When I decided to leave Corporate America in 2001, many of my peers thought I was nuts. I was a female executive making $200,000+/year in a high-profile job with lots of perks. So imagine their reaction when I told them I was giving up all I had worked for to become a "career coach." Let’s just say more than a few people stopped talking to me. It would have been easy to give up based on the reaction I got from my colleagues. Back then, career coaching wasn’t what it is today. People looked down upon using a career coach as something you did if you were a failure and couldn’t get a "real job." But, I knew in my heart our entire society was looking at career development incorrectly and believed it was time to find a way to coach the masses on the new rules to professional success and satisfaction. So, instead of giving up, I went searching for a new set of peers! I spent time networking online. I set up informational interviews with people I admired. I did whatever I could to develop a group of colleagues that shared my passion for career coaching and the need to help people. What I found was an incredible group of experts, many of whom are now contributors to the CAREEREALISM site. Somehow, I knew if I didn’t surround myself with positive influences at the start of my journey to be a career coach, I wouldn’t have the willpower to stick with my bigger dream of changing the way Americans looked at career development. Fast forward to today and I can tell you CAREEREALISM.com and CareerHMO.com would not exist if I hadn’t created an environment to support my efforts. Boost Your Willpower: Find Like-Minded Folks to Spend Time With! Almost anything worth succeeding in takes willpower - and lots of it! (i.e. losing weight, finding a job, etc.) Yet, since the majority of us don’t have enough willpower on our own to stick with the routine necessary to reach our goals, we know we need some help. That’s where environment comes in. The more you can surround yourself with the right people and mindsets, the better chance you’ll have of sticking with your dream and making it a reality. Now, while this may seem obvious, it’s amazing how many of us continue to pursue our goals by ourselves. Or even worse, spend time with people who criticize us for having dreams and the way we are approaching them. If this sounds like you, then it’s time to focus on improving your environment as a way to boost your willpower! Live Chats + A Buddy = Success When it comes to improving our career situation, I find a simple environmental formula can boost willpower and success. It starts by participating in live chats (either in-person or online) with a group of positive people who are trying to reach the same goal as you. It should be no surprise the reason we do CAREEREALISM TV is to give people a place to come together and be with like-minded professionals. Even if you can’t attend the live sessions, we record them so you can at least watch the archives and feel like you are a part of the community. Then, I encourage people to seek out one or two people they really feel the most connected to and start a little accountability program between them. Nothing formal, just regular emails to one another updating on their progress and checking in on how one another is doing. By having someone you know care about your success and want to help you succeed (and vice versa), you create a strong environment of positivity that will inspire you to keep taking action towards your goals. I’ve watched many of our CareerHMO.com members become friends via posting on our Success Wall inside our membership site. They then connect offline and become close virtual friends, helping one another by providing words of encouragement and a sense of humor. So, the next time you find yourself wanting to throw in the towel and give up, ask yourself what you can do to improve your environment. I promise if you find a way to run from the negativity and leap toward the positivity, you’ll find less of a need for willpower! J.T. O’Donnell is the founder of CAREEREALISM.com and CEO of CareerHMO.com, a web-based career development company. Image from marekuliasz/Shutterstock